U.S. Rep. Peter Welch stood with state and local officials next to a deteriorating state highway bridge on Tuesday to highlight frustration with congressional inaction on funding a new multiyear transportation program.
"America's roads and bridges are crumbling and Vermont's transportation infrastructure is no exception," Welch said. "Over the last 6 years, Congress has ducked its responsibility to reliably fund highway projects 33 times... It is essential that Congress get off the sidelines and pass a long term and sustainable revenue source so that state transportation planners have the certainty they need to plan and execute these projects."
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Vermont Transportation Secretary Sue Minter held up a sheet of paper listing 43 road, bridge and rail projects she said would be delayed if the current federal transportation program is allowed to expire without being replaced before the end of July.
The East Montpelier bridge on state Route 14 just before it forms a T-intersection with U.S. Route 2 has chunks missing from its main structure and a hole in its deck showing rebar and a view of the Winooski River flowing below. Money for planning the repairs it is in hand, but funds for actual construction on the project are in jeopardy, Minter said.
"We will actually have to hold projects like this bridge here in East Montpelier and like every project on this list that is set to go to bid," Minter said. "We will have to hold these projects back. That's money that's not getting invested, that's jobs that are not happening and most importantly, roads and bridges that are not getting fixed."
Welch said he had joined with a conservative Republican, Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, in proposing to House Speaker John Boehner that the House use a special parliamentary procedure in which methods to fund a transportation bill — a gas tax increase, or levy on U.S. corporations earning profits overseas or other sources — are voted on and whichever gets the most votes is chosen.
Welch said he had no preference among various funding methods that had been proposed, adding that he had told House leaders, "If you put something together and need the 218th vote, I'll be there."