Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the Surface Transportation jobs bill. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
In the 1950’s, America embarked on the largest public works project in its history: a new web of interstate highways.
This unprecedented 47,000 miles of highways would, for the first time, connect businesses and communities from sea to shining sea.
President Eisenhower, a Republican, said the investment would pave the way for a new era of American growth.
“[America] will be a nation of great prosperity, but will be more than that: it will be a nation that is going ahead every day… The expanding horizon is one that staggers the imagination.”
As a young Major in the Army, President Eisenhower had been assigned to bring a caravan of vehicles across the country over rutted and dilapidated roads. It was a terrible experience, and something he never forgot.
President Eisenhower said a new highway system was essential to our economy, our safety and our progress as a nation. That’s just as true today as it was in 1954.
Today America depends on more than four million miles of roadways to keep our economy humming.
We use those roads to take the kids across town to school and to take products across the nation to market.
But the system of highways, roadways, railways and bridges upon which the American economy depends – and in which we invested great resources during the last century – has fallen into disrepair.
More than 70,000 bridges in this country are “structurally deficient.” They need major repairs or to be replaced completely.
Every month in America, enough pedestrians are killed to fill a jumbo jet. Many of those deaths could have been prevented by proper sidewalks and crosswalks.
Bus and train ridership grows every year, while public transportation dollars shrink.
And one of every five miles of American roads is not up to safety standards.
Crumbling infrastructure is a terrible drag on our economy. But this crisis is also an opportunity.
By rebuilding our transportation system, we can put 2 million Americans back to work and boost our economy right away.
The Surface Transportation jobs bill on the floor this week is one of the most important pieces of legislation we’ll consider this year.
It will help modernize our transit systems, rebuild America’s roads and bridges and create or save millions of middle-class jobs. And it will do it in a fiscally responsible way.
Democrats and Republicans agree that making America’s transportation system great again will bolster our economy.
President Reagan called a world-class transportation system “an investment in tomorrow that we must make today.”
So it’s no wonder this strong, bipartisan Surface Transportation legislation passed out of committee unanimously.
I am cautiously optimistic that spirit of cooperation will hold this week.
And I hope the Junior Senator from South Carolina did not speak for the majority of Republicans last week when he said this: “We don’t have shared goals with the Democrats.”
I would like to believe Republicans share our goal of strengthening the economy and creating millions of jobs for Americans workers.
I would like to believe they share our goal, as Eisenhower and Reagan did, of rebuilding a world-class transportation system to support a world-class economy.
This week, Republicans have an opportunity to prove they share those goals.
The Surface Transportation jobs bill is too important to get bogged down with ideological amendments. Unrelated legislation that would limit women’s access to health care has no place on a transportation bill.
Let’s stay laser focused on our most important task: putting 2 million Americans back to work rebuilding our roadways and railways.
Together we can keep this nation, as Eisenhower said, moving ahead every day.