Nebraska has three seasons: winter, football, and road construction. It's an old joke but it emphasizes why we go all out in the summer months with road construction. Good roads are important to Nebraska's economy. Not only do they create jobs while they're being built, but they are our state's corridors of commerce that promote economic growth.
I supported and Congress recently passed a short-term six-month extension of the highway authorization act. Getting this bill passed was good news in that it made sure workers stayed on the job and kept many important roads projects on track.
Analysis by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that Nebraska would have had 10,370 job losses if the highway authorization act would have been allowed to lapse. Nationally, more than 1.8 million jobs would have been lost if the legislation had not been passed and a shutdown of our nation's roads programs would have occurred.
Clearly, a short-term extension was better than seeing the building and repairing of our nation's roads come to a stop. But in order to provide a little bit of certainty in an uncertain economy, I would prefer that Congress quit kicking the can down the road and instead of passing short-term extensions work towards passing a multi-year bill. Companies need the certainty of a long-term bill so they can plan for the future and hire more workers and cities and states need to do long-term planning when it comes to infrastructure investments.
Investing in infrastructure is one of the few issues that has historically garnered widespread bipartisan support. Unfortunately, nowadays Congress seems to be more interested in job-killing partisan fighting than working together on a bill like a new highway reauthorization that would create tens of thousands of jobs and deliver the infrastructure improvements our country sorely needs.
And Nebraska could certainly use the boost the passage of a new highway authorization act would provide. According to the Nebraska Department of Roads 2010 State Needs Assessment, the report identifies current roads funding needs for our state for the next 20 years at $9.2 billion, in today's dollars. With inflation applied at 5% for FY-2012 and FY-2013, and 3% for the remaining 18 years, over the next 20 years the total costs are estimated at $13.2 billion.
I have long been focused on cutting the bureaucratic red tape that too often holds up important projects from being delivered effectively and efficiently. Addressing this issue will be one of my top priorities in the new highway bill. This red tape is holding up millions of dollars for projects that has already had funding designated for them.
I have been working with transportation officials in Nebraska on ideas to streamline the delivery of federal aid roads projects so that we use taxpayer funds more efficiently. Bringing this Nebraska common sense to our nation's Capitol will go a long ways in making sure we are getting roads built and putting more people to work.