Invest in the infrastructure to stimulate the economy

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By Senator Jim Webb

It is imperative that Congress and the President act swiftly to prepare and implement an economic stimulus package aimed at easing the hardships that less fortunate Americans are now experiencing. These priorities—which should include funding for a heating assistance program for low-income households; an immediate, refundable rebate for low- and middle-income families; and federal assistance to the states to assist them in financing Medicaid—will help to stimulate the economy and provide aid to millions of hard working Americans

It is clear that the government will offer an economic stimulus plan in the coming weeks. I plan to work with my colleagues and the President to ensure that any plan offers assistance to those who need it most. But, we can do still more, by investing in our nation’s infrastructure.

The strongest tonic for economic stimulation is investment in our nation’s roadways, transit systems and water systems. I recently sent a letter to Senators Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, urging them to include infrastructure improvements in the economic stimulus package. I will continue to push for infrastructure projects to be included in a second economic stimulus package.

Legislation that includes a substantial investment in infrastructure will address one of the major concerns of a potential recession: job creation. Reliable estimates have shown that every $1 billion spent on construction and maintenance of our nation’s infrastructure creates approximately 47,500 jobs. Think what that could mean for Virginia’s workforce. And, every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure generates $2 billion in economic activity throughout the American economy, according to the United States Department of Transportation.

What’s more, we win on multiple fronts: we put people to work while making long-term investments in our nation’s infrastructure needs to compete in a global economy. Spending less time stuck in traffic means increased productivity at work and more time at home with our families.

Federal investment in transportation infrastructure improvements would benefit all Virginians who feel the sting of increased transportation costs, high gas prices and longer trips due to traffic gridlock. By improving and expanding the capacity of our road network and investing in mass transit we can make it easier for commuters across the Commonwealth to get to and from work, and also ease the strain that businesses – large and small - feel when transporting goods. Rising transportation costs require these businesses to charge more for their products which, in turn, puts those goods out of reach for some Virginia consumers.

In order to ensure that funds reach people in need as soon as possible, I believe that priority must be placed on projects that have been structured for quick turn-around and infrastructure projects that are already in the works.

As an important example, Virginia and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area are working with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration regarding a multi-billion dollar extension of the Metrorail system to Reston, Virginia, and ultimately to Dulles International Airport. This project would have a national impact. Its immediate approval would result in the expenditure of $700 million this year in Virginia alone, generating thousands of jobs that will be filled by residents across a four-state area and giving an enormous boost to the Mid-Atlantic economy.

Additional infrastructure funds could be used to improve mobility in the heavily congested Hampton Roads region, to improve safety along the Interstate 81 corridor in western Virginia, and to spur economic development in Southwest Virginia through the construction of the Coalfields Expressway.

I believe strongly that investment in our nation’s roadways, school facilities, transit systems and water systems will stimulate the economy and assist our nation’s citizens.