As I wrote in two different blog posts earlier this week, April is both Safe Digging Month and Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Today, I'm tempted to add that April is also the Month of the TIGER.
The deadline to apply for the fourth round of our wildly successful Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery grant program has come and gone, and, once again, project proposals have far surpassed the funds Congress has made available for these problem-solving projects. For TIGER 2012, we received applications totaling $10.2 billion, more than 20 times the $500 million set aside for the program. And those 703 applications came from all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
President Obama has challenged us to invest in an America that is built to last, and it’s clear that communities across America can’t afford to wait any longer to get started.
The need is enormous. From roadways to help reduce costly bottlenecks to transit choices that help commuters save on gas and freight rail upgrades that improve safety and efficiency, America needs a 21st century transportation system capable of supporting our 21st century economy. An America that's built to last needs transportation that's built to last.
And there may be no better time to build it.
A report released last month by the U.S. Department of Treasury with the Council of Economic Advisers finds that now is the key time to invest in infrastructure to create middle-class jobs, increase our long-term competitiveness, and support a more secure energy future. And President Obama's proposed budget, with its bold plan to renew and expand America's infrastructure, proposes exactly that kind of infrastructure investment.
The Treasury Department report indicates that investment in infrastructure would support middle-class families today and in the future. In the short-term, investments in transportation create middle-class jobs; 80 percent of the jobs created are in construction, manufacturing, and retail and wholesale trade, where nearly 90 percent of the jobs pay middle-class wages. And the unemployment rate is significantly higher in the construction trades, where infrastructure investment would create the bulk of its jobs.
In the long-term, better transportation choices will deliver benefits to families burdened by gas prices, congested roads, and a lack of options. The average American family spends more than $7,600 a year on transportation--that's more than we spend on food and more than twice what we spend on out-of-pocket health care costs. For 90 percent of us, transportation costs consume one out of every seven dollars of income.
But the report also tells us that Americans living where there are more transportation options were able to save $200 per month in lower costs, including paying less at the pump, over the past decade.
Unfortunately, Americans are not getting a lot of help from Congress. We simply cannot make the investments we need to build the nation we want without a long-term transportation plan, and it is up to Congress to pass such a plan. But Congress has failed to come together on what has traditionally been an issue with bipartisan support. Instead, the legislature has settled for extending the old plan--on nine separate occasions. And even those extensions have been difficult to achieve.
This is no way for a global leader to operate. It shortchanges our businesses; it shortchanges our families; and it shortchanges our future.
All of our United States, territories, and DC understand this. And with their 703 TIGER 2012 applications seeking more than $10 billion in infrastructure solutions, they have sent Congress a clear message that America needs a long-term transportation plan.
As Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said yesterday, "To make us more competitive, we have to be willing to make larger long-term investments in infrastructure, not just limp forward with temporary extensions."
For now, however, one creature that is not limping forward is the transportation and planning community's favorite animal: DOT's TIGER.