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Senate panel debates transportation spending

Marketplace Staff Nov 9, 2011

Senate panel debates transportation spending

Marketplace Staff Nov 9, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: In about an hour, a Senate panel will begin
discussing the country’s transportation infrastructure, and how to pay for rebuilding it. Parts of the plan, maybe surprisingly, have bipartisan support — something that seems all too rare in Washington these days. So why are lawmakers willing to come together on transportation spending?

Marketplace’s David Gura is with us now live from our Washington bureau with the latest on that. Hey David.

David Gura: Morning Steve.

Chiotakis: What exactly are Democrats and Republicans starting to agree on here?

Gura: Well, a couple of things, at least — certainly that infrastructure in this country is not in the greatest shape; that roads and bridges need to be repaired and replaced.

Many Democrats and Republicans agree the federal government could do more to encourage states to avoid putting money in the same old construction projects and instead, fund some that reduce congestion and air pollution, among other things.

I talked to Emil Frankel this morning, Steve. He’s a transportation expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Emil Frankel: The wish and the desire is there, but I’m not sure that the means is yet there for tackling this problem.

Now, they’re fighting over how to fund this plan. Right now, states are prohibited from putting tolls on the interstate — some lawmakers would like to see that ban lifted. So Steve, that’s just one of many points that needs to be resolved for both sides to come to an agreement on how to pay for a transportation plan.

Chiotakis: Okay, David, so there are debates about the budget and how to pay for it. But would the plan create any jobs?

Gura: Well, this idea of infrastructure paving a path to better employment is something we’ve heard over and over again. Robert Puentes is with the Brookings Institution. He says there is evidence a good transportation plan would do that.

Robert Puentes: We know that the multipliers that come through the spending that goes for things like transportation don’t just benefit projects in the short term. There are other kinds of indirect benefits.

So, yes, this could create jobs for construction workers, and folks in manufacturing. And Steve, reducing the time workers spend in their cars — that has economic benefits, too.

Chiotakis: Marketplace’s David Gura, reporting from our Washington bureau. David, thanks

Gura: Thank you.

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