The following report highlights the Bush Administration’s misplaced priorities in calling for the American taxpayer to spend $600 million to build roads and bridges in Iraq and Afghanistan, while neglecting thousands of America’s own deficient roads and bridges. As the country approaches some of the busiest travel days of the year, the President has issued a veto threat against the Conference Report to the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill.
While complaining about Democratic investments in America’s transportation infrastructure, the President submitted another supplemental appropriations request to increase war spending this year from $150.5 billion to $196.4 billion. American taxpayers have already spent about $330 million in Iraq on roads, bridges, and construction projects. Within this new increase of $45.9 billion, there are two separate requests for funds to address road rebuilding in Afghanistan that, together, total $292 million.
President Bush’s Highway Priorities for Iraq
The most recent report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) Iraq Inspector General’s Office reports that the United States has funded more than 1,000 road and bridge projects in Iraq. The Department of State estimates that the United States has spent approximately $330 million on roads, bridges, and construction projects in Iraq.
Bridge reconstruction. Through reconstruction funds supplied by the American taxpayer, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has completed “36 detailed assessments and demolished irreparable bridge sections in the rebuilding of three key bridges: the Al Mat Bridge, the Khazir Bridge, and the Tikrit Bridge.”
Road construction. During the last fiscal quarter, the United States paid for the completion of seven roads and bridges in Iraq. They include roads between Mosul and Baghdad, rural roads, and the continued construction of a four lane highway between Baghdad and Kirkuk.
Airports. Taxpayer funds through the USAID’s Infrastructure Reconstruction Program have “restored two of Iraq’s most important international airports.” Those efforts were critical in reopening Baghdad’s International Airport which has processed approximately 5,500 flights since July of 2003.
Railroads. USAID has also been working to assess “over 1,100 kilometers of railroad track and rail facilities throughout Iraq to identify priority projects.” USAID has assisted with the construction of 72 kilometers of new track and rail facilities between the Port of Umm Qasr and Shuaiba Junction, which is located west of Basrah and Baghdad.”
President Bush’sHighway Priorities for Afghanistan
Road construction. President Bush’s most recent supplemental appropriations request includes $242 million for the Department of Defense’s Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which according to the President’s budget request, “would be used for road construction projects that are generally focused on secondary roads” in Afghanistan.
Road expansions. The President has also requested $50 million within the State Department’s International Security Assistance program to “fund a road segment to expand the reach and service delivery capacity of the central government into a strategic province in the North” of Afghanistan.
Democrats Invest in Highway, Bridge, Railroad, and
Minneapolis bridge reconstruction. The THUD appropriations bill – which President Bush has threatened to veto – provides $195 million in emergency funds to complete the reconstruction of the collapsed I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis bridge funding was added on the Senate floor by Senators Klobuchar and Coleman.
Investment in aging bridges and improvements in our nation’s aging highway infrastructure. The THUD appropriations bill provides $41.2 billion to improve and maintain our nation’s aging highway infrastructure (this funding level would result in 100,000 new jobs). The President’s budget request for highway infrastructure was below the level guaranteed in SAFETEA-LU, the highway authorization bill (passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2005). The THUD appropriations bill would provide $1.631 billion more than the President’s request.
The Senate also voted to provide $1 billion in additional, targeted-formula funding to allow all 50 states to address their most deficient highway bridges. This additional funding for bridges was added through an amendment by Senator Murray.
Airports. Democrats have refused to accept the President’s budget request for a $760 million less in funding for airports and $52 million less for maintenance and modernization of the air traffic control system. Unfortunately, when Democrats in Congress refused to accept these cuts, the President threatened to veto the THUD bill.
Railroads. President Bush is threatening to veto THUD because Congress has refused to go along with his plan to slash Amtrak funding by almost 40 percent ($493 million), which would almost certainly send the railroad into bankruptcy.
Transportation Investments Overseas or at Home?
Paved roads. The United States has more than 500 miles of paved road for every mile of paved road in Afghanistan. On a comparative basis, the President’s supplemental appropriations request is seeking more than $57,000 for every mile of paved road in Afghanistan. When Democrats in Congress propose to increase highway funding in the United States by $630 per mile of pavement in the THUD appropriations bill, however, the President called it excessive and threatened a veto
Number of cars on the road. There are almost 700 cars in the United States for every car in Afghanistan. On a comparative basis, the President’s supplemental request seeks almost $1,500 in highway funding for every car in Afghanistan. When Democrats in Congress propose to increase highway fund in the United States by less then $12 per car in the THUD appropriations bill, however the President calls it excessive and threatened a veto.