Infrastructure Investment As Economic Stimulus

report_from_trentonBy John S. Wisniewski

Our nation is experiencing an economic crisis of such scope and proportion that some are comparing it to the Great Depression.

In an era of economic globalization, we cannot afford to allow our economy to descend to the same levels as we saw from 1929 to 1933. Now, as then, it falls to government to step in and avert an economic crisis before it becomes an economic collapse.

The simplest solution is to stimulate the economy. And while direct injections of cash may be a welcome relief to the investment banks and brokerage houses on Wall Street, such injections have had questionable benefits. The single best stimulus package we can provide is a job.

Job creation and job retention were key components 75 years ago of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, which lifted the country out of its worst depression. And 52 years ago, to forestall an economic depression following the end of World War II, the federal government authorized the single largest public works project in history – the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 – that created our 46,837 mile, coast-to-coast network of highways and put millions of Americans to work. The 35-year, $114 billion project ($425 billion in 2006 dollars, adjusted for inflation) had a tangible benefit to U.S. families – creating millions of jobs across the country.

Now, as then, we not only have an opportunity to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, there is a real need to do so and we cannot afford to pass it up.

Serious federal investment in transportation infrastructure would benefit New Jersey immensely. Transportation infrastructure investment would give:

• A much needed facelift to the nation’s busiest toll road – the Garden State Parkway;

• A much needed facelift to the nation’s fifth busiest toll road – the New Jersey Turnpike;

• Funding to complete widening projects for both roadways to accommodate the state’s 5.9 million licensed drivers and the tens of thousands of commuters from New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut that utilize the toll roads on a daily basis;

• Overhauls and expansion of the nation’s third largest port system and the Eastern seaboard’s busiest port – Ports Elizabeth and Newark;

• Overhauls to our nation’s third largest mass transit system – New Jersey Transit, which leases track from the nation’s largest mass transit system, Amtrak;

• Improvements to our two international airports in Newark and Atlantic City;

• Funding to complete the new trans-Hudson rail tunnel linking Manhattan and North Jersey;

• Funding to repair the state’s 2,000 deteriorating bridges and spans;

• Our world-class state transportation infrastructure the ability to continue carrying billions of dollars in freight, commerce and commuters for a generation.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, every $1 billion in highway construction creates 42,000 jobs. Every dollar invested in our transportation network generates $5.60 in direct economic benefits. Moreover, independent transportation and economic experts estimate a $200 billion infrastructure investment would create 2.5 million jobs across the country. And an investment of $250 billion would be enough to repair every bridge and span in the country, ensuring that the devastation that followed the catastrophic failure of the I-35 span in Minneapolis won’t be repeated.

New Jersey could see hundreds of thousands of new jobs created and millions of dollars pumped into our economy from just a few billion dollars in federal infrastructure investment. By that math, choosing to do anything else just doesn’t add up.

John S. Wisniewski is a member of the New Jersey General Assembly representing the 19th District, which includes a portion of Middlesex County. A Democrat, he chairs the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee.

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