So it is fair to say that the stimulus program has indeed had some very salutary impact on both employment and on the transportation grid that is vital to the health of commerce in this country.
The problem is that this critical obligation of the U.S. Government was funded only as an emergency measure in response to an attempt to provide temporary funds to tie the economy over until the private sector could get back on its feet.
But in fact, the private sector on its own initiative does not and cannot undertake the indispensable maintenance of our roads and bridges. This spending which supplements the Highway Trust Fund should be a core element of the appropriation voted on by Congress each year. It should not be part of an emergency stimulus bill.
Highway construction, maintenance and repair are obligations of our government, just as the maintenance of capital plant and equipment are the obligation of private sector companies who produce goods. Since the invention of the wheel, successful economies have understood the unbreakable linkage between transport and safe roadways. It is a disgrace that the last several congresses and numerous administrations have declined to address the growing backlog of crumbling interstate infrastructure in favor of other spending.
Of course addressing the issue now begs the question of where the funds will be found. For starters, Congress could take all the stimulus money it earmarked for future projects that will do nothing to get us out of the current economic malaise and reallocate those funds to the here and now, making a significant down payment on our obligation by allowing highway refurbishment to continue well beyond its current scope. Those private sector jobs include architects, structural and transportation engineers, surveyors, construction workers and all manner of hi-tech modeling and planning operations that utilize the skills already developed in all fifty states. Many of these should be permanent jobs, not the whimsical beneficence of a nervous congress as a one-time event.