Lawmakers urged to pass federal infrastructure bill
Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, and U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster.
To the editor:
On behalf of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., I am writing to elicit your support for and passage of a comprehensive infrastructure bill. Infrastructure, to include highways, bridges, rail, ports (water and air), electric grids, telecommunication, water and sewer, is the foundation of our economy; consequently, nothing is more important to ensuring future economic growth, job creation and prosperity locally, statewide and nationally.
Here in Franklin County, passage of an infrastructure bill is our No. 1 legislative priority. As you are aware, (Interstate) 81 traverses the county, and it is our economic lifeline. Approximately 12 percent of our nation’s economy travels on I-81, making it one of the nation’s most important transportation corridors. And as the importance of I-81 has grown, so has traffic congestion. The traffic congestion has resulted in a significantly increased number of traffic accidents that have resulted in major delays, but more importantly, the needless loss of lives.
Virtually every day there is an accident somewhere between Winchester, Va., and Carlisle, Pa., in which the victims suffer serious injuries or death, and the traffic backups are hours in duration. Traffic is often diverted onto U.S. 11 through communities that were never intended for such volumes of cars and trucks. The expansion of I-81 from a predominately four-lane highway to six lanes cannot happen soon enough.
Passage of an infrastructure bill has an added benefit in Franklin County as we are home to original equipment manufacturers (and their suppliers) that produce the machinery and equipment for infrastructure contractors. Our largest employers include Manitowoc Crane Group, JLG Industries and Volvo Construction Equipment. Today, the “big three” directly employ more than 3,500 workers; with passage of an infrastructure bill, it is reasonable to expect that their employment will grow 50 to 75 percent. When including the supply chain, we can anticipate the creation of upwards of 5,000 manufacturing jobs right here in Franklin County.
So, the questions always are, “Can we afford it and/or how do we pay for it?” To that, we would argue:
1) How can we not afford to invest in our infrastructure? The longer we delay the investment, the costlier it will become, and without the investment, we are unable to maximize our economic potential. And locally, the congestion on I-81 is transforming the interstate from a transportation and economic lifeline, to a safety albatross.
2) In part, the anticipated economic growth will generate much of the increased tax revenues required. And candidly, there is the need to restructure tax revenues, including the federal gas tax, to finance improvements.
Comprehensive infrastructure legislation deserves bipartisan support. At a time such as this, when we are very politically polarized, we need to rally around a bipartisan issue that can deliver transformational impacts on communities and improve the quality of living for everyone. Comprehensive infrastructure investment is the issue, and we need your leadership and support on this matter sooner rather than later.
If there is anything the FCADC can do to support your efforts, we welcome the opportunity to do so.
L. Michael Ross, president
Franklin County Area Development Corp.