Monday, September 26, 2011

Will American Industry Step Up?

Lately, the President has brought forth a new effort to get people working again.  One of the more local public works jobs, which would really create jobs, is the rebuilding of the Brent Spence Bridge from Northern Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio.  Now, all we have to do is sell this idea to Congress.

Back in the day, Congressmen used to have "knock down - drag out" battles over which one would get a job creating (pork barrel) project like this.  Many of the projects were just to get jobs and not do anything else, but this will replace an aging structure which carries roughly twice the traffic it was designed to carry.  This is a real economic development project which will impact the entire region. Not only does this bridge connect Cincinnati with its southern half of the metro area, it holds Interstate 75 and Interstate 71.  I -75 is one of the most heavily traveled Interstates in the eastern half of the country.

The Brent Spence Bridge carries traffic flowing from Detroit to Miami, from Chicago to Atlanta and from New Orleans to Cleveland/Pittsburgh. That could easily be one fifth of all highway freight traffic in the eastern U.S.  Existing rail infrastructure will not allow the railroads to pick up the slack and the Ohio and Mississippi rivers are limited in just how far they can reach and the aging lock system.

Other Interstate bridges are beginning to show similar wear and tear, as evidenced by the Sherman Minton Bridge of I-64, from Louisville to Southern Indiana.

Why, in a time of high unemployment, should two of the most powerful members of Congress, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, who just happen the represent the states on either side of this important highway link feel that pushing this project forward is wrong.  Is it because this is a public works project expected to cost billions?  Would it be due to the timing being under a Democratic president?  Both Brent Spence and Sherman Minton were Democratic Congressmen, so the Republicans cannot assist in their repair/replacement?

Maybe these types of construction projects should be funded by the folks who use them the most. Maybe time has come when we the American taxpayer should let the American consumer pay for Interstate repairs.  Have any of our American corporations (the ones sitting on well over $2 trillion in cash) come forward to pay for the infrastructure which allows their businesses to thrive?  The trucking industry and independent truckers pay hefty fuel taxes and usage fees in order to keep the goods rolling and private autos pay their fair share of gas taxes, yet the Federal Highway Trust Fund is still shrinking to the point that it cannot pay for all necessary repairs.  Clearly, there needs to be a better way.

As Rob Morris pointed out the other day in his new blog CivilMechanics,  jobs are created when there is a demand for goods or services.  He is dead on in his assessment this time.  The Interstate bridges are in disrepair, so there is a need.  Construction jobs are becoming very hard to come by, so there is a need.  Government funds will only add to the mounting deficit, so there is a need (to not add more debt).  People on both sides of the river still have to get to the jobs that they still have, so the need is there.

The needs are many and the funds are few, so when will American industry step up to the plate?

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