While Congress took a President's Day break in late February, Ray LaHood traveled to the sunny state of Florida to be the keynote speaker at this year's Preservation & Rehabilitation meeting in Bonita Springs sponsored by the Asphalt Emulsion Manufacturers Association (AEMA), Asphalt Recycling & Reclaiming Association (ARRA), International Slurry Surfacing Association (ISSA) and the Pavement Preservation & Recycling Alliance (PPRA).
As he addressed the meeting, his frustration over the long and winding road the transportation bill has been on seemed palatable. There have been eight extensions spanning 880 days since the last long-term bill ran out.
"If the people who are elected to Congress really want to put people to work, they'll pass a transport bill," says LaHood.
The Senate has a two-year bipartisan bill that is pending on the floor, and the House is retooling its bill, possibly making it shorter than five years and restoring dedicated Highway Trust Fund money for transit projects. LaHood says this is the best time to contact your representatives to have your voice heard.
"America is one big pothole – we need to fix the potholes," he says. "America has always gone big when we need to. We need to do something big. I encourage Congress to pass the president's budget, which increases transportation funds by 40 percent."
Obama, in his fiscal 2013 budget request, asked for a six-year, $476 billion measure paid for with savings from ending the Middle East wars, says LaHood. "Everything is paid for in the president's budget," he notes.
This week, LaHood is predicting another transportation stopgap, according to Politico, with House and Senate leaders refusing to give up on their respective versions of the long-overdue legislation.
LaHood says politics are getting in the way of getting people back to work. "There are too many politics in America," he says. "Infrastructure is for everyone. That’s how it’s done. That’s the way it’s always been done, not by some kind of a political party or political label.”
LaHood singled out Republicans for opposing Obama’s transportation policy. “If the president has an idea, Republicans don’t like it. Transportation is a jobs bill. Politics has never been involved in transportation – take the politics out and get people back to work."
To contact your senator or representative, visit USA.gov.