Nevada Transportation Chief Lobbies Congress for 'Well-funded Highway and Transit Program'

"States believe that jobs are at stake and our future is at stake," says AASHTO president.

The director of the Nevada Department of Transportation was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday calling on senators to pass a multi-year surface transportation authorization bill.

Susan Martinovich testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in her role as the president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

She was the first person to testify in the first hearing for the committee for the 112th Congress. The hearing was titled "Transportation's Role in Supporting Our Economy and Job Creation."

Martinovich, who has headed the Nevada Department of Transportation since January 2007, was elected in November as the national association's first female president.

In her five-minute testimony and 11-page written testimony, Martinovich talked about how transportation projects help the economy, noting that contractors need more certainty about future projects to employ people.

"Contractors in our state tell me they need a backlog of three years of work to keep their crews together. Currently many see only six months of work on the horizon," she said. "With that uncertainty, they can't plan or buy equipment or supplies. They can't assure jobs for existing staff, let alone include training and internships for minority worker programs."

Some of the uncertainty comes from a lack of a long-term federal transportation plan.

Instead of passing a new federal transportation law, Congress has passed six temporary extensions to the 2005 law, which expired in 2009. The current extension expires March 4.

"States believe that jobs are at stake and our future is at stake," Martinovich told the committee. "We need Congress to pass a well-funded highway and transit program this year that's also multi-year. If you can help, we will do everything we can to help you and we will deliver."

In her opening remarks at the hearing, the committee chair, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she will work to get a law passed this year.

"Just last night I sat with the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica, at the State of the Union, and he agrees enacting a bill should be a priority for this Congress," Boxer said. "Although we may not agree on everything, we both want to work together to get a bill done."

In his speech, President Barack Obama called on Congress to invest in transportation projects.

"Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I'm proposing that we redouble these efforts," he said.