Tulsa World: Sen. Jim Inhofe: America must rebuild its transportation system

By:  Sen. Jim Inhofe
Click here to read at Tulsa World

Our nation has a long lineage of transportation vitality. President Eisenhower knew this in 1956 when he authorized the Interstate Highway Act. His vision, that the “…transportation system (is) a dynamic element in the very name we bear — United States … and without (it), we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts,” remains true today. Our roads and bridges are a vital aspect of our nation’s security and economic prosperity.

While it is not often the case that the government spends taxpayer dollars wisely — or on deserving programs — the building, maintaining and modernizing of our nation’s roads and bridges is one area any Constitution-abiding member of Congress should defend and work to properly fund.

This is why on Tuesday I introduced with Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., David Vitter, R-La., and Tom Caper, D-Del., the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act), to support the vision of President Eisenhower and appropriately fund the very backbone of this great nation’s economy and national security.

Unfortunately, what was once the beacon of transportation systems globally is now deteriorating. Congress has kicked the can down the road for future generations; major projects and new innovations have either become exponentially more expensive or come to a standstill. Our roads, bridges and economy have suffered as a result.

One out of every four bridges has been found to be in need of significant structural repair. In fact, 430 of the 435 congressional districts across the country are home to structurally deficient bridges. These are bridges that school buses drive on to carry our children every day to school, bridges that freight trucks access to deliver fresh groceries and bridges that we use to commute to work every morning.

The sub-par state of our roads has caused traffic to skyrocket — 20,000 miles of our roads are overwhelmed with congestion. While many Americans experience the inconvenience of this congestion first hand, what’s worse is that it is felt on a larger scale too. Each year we waste billions of dollars on fuel, and as we transport goods a significant “friction cost” is added. Friction cost raises the price consumers pay for necessities like milk, coffee and toilet paper.

A solution is urgent, because today our country sits at a crossroads. Congress must act now and pass a long-term surface infrastructure solution to fix bridges, eliminate waste and reduce congestion, or it will continue to pass short-term extensions, causing our economy, global competitiveness and quality of life to spiral downwards.

The DRIVE Act is the solution we desperately need. It will revitalize our freight program, offer opportunities to put innovation into action and allow our nation to appropriately shift focus and plan for future needs and priorities.

The DRIVE Act also addresses concerns specifically expressed by the Oklahoma community, and I look forward to announcing those provisions at a press conference on Friday in my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Passing a fully funded, long-term reauthorization bill is absolutely essential to putting America back on the map as the best place to do business.

And with the support of my colleagues in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I hope the DRIVE Act can serve as the vehicle to enact long-term reform to these critical programs.