I'm here today to discuss the critical need to address our nation's crumbling transportation and infrastructure system. The cracks in this system became abundantly clear to all of our country, and in fact the entire world, when on the afternoon of August 1, 2007, the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the middle of the Mississippi River, taking the lives of 13 Minnesotans and injuring so many more.
As I said that day, a bridge shouldn't fall down in the middle of America, especially not an eight-lane interstate highway, which is one of the most heavily traveled bridges in our state. Especially not at rush hour in the middle of a metropolitan area, especially not a bridge six blocks from my house, a bridge that I take my family over all the time to go out to visit their friends. That's what happened that day in the middle of a sunny day in the middle of America. And yet, four years after theI-35W Bridge has collapsed and been rebuilt, 25% -- 25% -- of our nation's bridges are still structurally deficient or obsolete.
I wish I could say that the bridge collapse was the only tragedy that my state has suffered because of a broken infrastructure system. It's not. We saw another one just this October in Goodhue County on Highway 52, which connects the Twin Cities to Rochester, the home of the Mayo Clinic. Within a ten-day span one intersection on Highway 52 between Rochester, Minnesota, and the Twin Cities of Minnesota was the site of twofatal crashes that claimed three lives and injured others.
Even before these tragic crashes, everyone agreed that an interchange was needed so that drivers weren't forced to risk racing across a four-lane divided highway. But the county and the Minnesota Department of Transportation didn't have the funds to build an interchange which could have eased the situation, could have saved three lives.
The worst part? That intersection of Highway 52 isn't even the most dangerous stretch of that road. Local leaders have marked several other projects as higher safety priorities. And yet the funds aren'tthere, the money isn't there to address those problems.
These are just two examples of the impact of our infrastructure and transportation needs in this country. There are tens of thousands more in small towns, in big cities from Maryland to Minnesota.
That's why I've come to the floor to discuss the Rebuild America Jobs Act, legislation that I introduced with several of my colleagues, including Senator Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. We have come together as senators from all corners of the countrybecause we recognize the urgent need for new and bold initiatives to rebuild America.
Our legislation would get the ball rolling on desperately needed improvements by establishing an infrastructure bank, something that is long garnered bipartisan support in the congress and directing $50 billion toward infrastructure.
Both of these ideas, as I've noted, have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. In fact, standing there with us this afternoon was Ray LaHood former Republican Congressman now the Secretary ofTransportation under a Democratic President. There is no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican bridge. No such thing as a Republican highway or Democratic highway. Transportation has always been a bipartisan issue in this country and must continue to be so. And that is why we're continuing to push this legislation. We may not pass it this week, but I know from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle there continues to be interest in moving ahead on infrastructure funding.
The legislation is about improving public safety, so no bridge ever collapses again in the middle of America. But it's also about creating better opportunitiesfor our businesses and jobs.
I say that because if you look back through history, it's clear that many of the major milestones that contributed to America's greatness were rooted in our infrastructure. Whether it was connecting the east and west coast by rail in 1869 or the WPA. In the 1930's or the construction of the interstate highway system that began in the 1950's with a Democratic congress and a Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, or even the amazing innovations of the early American auto industry, our country did not move forward because our leaders tinkered at the edges of the status quo.
America flourished because of innovators like Henry Ford, who once said, "if I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they had have said a faster horse." Then he turned around add built the Model-T. If he were alive today, he would say that America cannot afford to take a horse-and-buggy approach to infrastructure.
Yet that's what we've been doing. While other countries are moving full steam ahead with infrastructure investments, we're simply treading water. And in an increasingly competitive global economy, standing still issadly falling behind.
China and India are spending about 9% and 5% respectively of their GDPs on infrastructure. Even Europe spends 5% of its GDP, and yet how much are we committing right now? About 2%. The effects of this shortsighted strategy are increasingly clear.
In its 2007 and 28 report, the world economic forum ranked American infrastructure sixth in the world. That was only a few years ago. Yet we have already slipped to 16th place, putting our roads roughly on par withthose of Malaysia and far behind those of Germany, Canada, and Hong Kong.
This is a huge problem because the strength of our infrastructure is directly tied to the competitiveness of our economy. Just look at the numbers.
As our country slipped in the ranking for infrastructure, we also dropped in the World Economic Forum's ratings on competitiveness. Last year we were at fourth place. This year we're in fifth place.
Competitiveness is a huge element because this isn't just about global bragging rights. Fundamentally, it is about lifting the parking brakethat has kept our economy idling and addressing the major inefficiencies we've seen in our infrastructure system.
If we want to move to the next-century economy, it is going to be about imports, it is going to be about making stuff now, exporting to the world and if we don't have the roads to carry the goods to markets or the waterways or barges to do it or an air traffic control system that's up to speed, we are not going to be that economy that so many of our workers and so many of ourbusinesses want us to be.
Failing to move ahead will have consequences that no one likes. Just for example, it would not be altogether different from -- altogether different from levying a multibillion-dollar tax on American industry.
Infrastructure is expected to drive up the cost of doing business by an estimated $430 billion according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. That's just in the next decade.
America spends 4.8 billion hours in traffic, just sitting there in traffic everysingle year. When trucks idle in traffic on the highway, or wait for port facilities to be loaded or unloaded or when trains sit on our congested rail network, our economy hemorrhages dollars, losing roughly $200 billion each year. To put that number in perspective, it is roughly 1.5% of our gross domestic product. Increased transportation costs will make it more expensive for companies to ship goods and purchase raw materials. We can only expect that those costs will be passed on to customers.
Traffic congestion, as I mentioned, costs usbillions. When i said that $4.8 billion for a year, when I said it I thought, did I get it wrong? Is it millions? But, no, Mr. President, it is in fact 4.8 billion hours each year stuck in traffic. That's $101 billion in lost revenue. That is $713 per motorist.
The bad news is that without action, those numbers are only going up. By 2020 it is estimated that our crumbling infrastructure will cost our economy morethan $890 billion in lost GDP growth. The public safety aspect of this debate is also incredibly important and it is something that we can't afford to ignore.
According to the Census Bureau, the American population is expected to add another 120 million people by 2050. That's a 40% increase in 40 years. It's like adding the entire nation of Japan or more than three states of California. Think about that. Wecan't stand still on our infrastructure.
That's 120 million more people on our roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, and airports, structures that are already insufficient for meeting the needs of today's population.
Here's the good news: addressing this challenge doesn't just make sense from a long-term competitiveness perspective. It also makes sense because it would be an immediate shot in the arm for our economy.
We're still looking at an environment where too many Americans are out of work or have seen their hours cut back, and people that have taken it the hardest arepeople in the construction industry. In construction the unemployment rate is now 13.3%, more than 4 points higher than the national average.
The Rebuild America Act will help to get these workers back on the job. Here's how we'll do it:
First of all, we'll need to be making smarter decisions to stretch our transportation dollars further. This is a compelling case for public-private partnerships. We all know government can't do this alone. Public-private partnerships for private-sector jobs.
That's whythe infrastructure bank, part of the Rebuild America Jobs Act, is so important. The American Infrastructure Financing Authority would provide loans and loan guarantees to finance projects that would otherwise be too expensive for any one city, county, or even state to accomplish on its own.
The bank would serve as an incentive for the creation of public-private partnerships and the mechanisms necessary for repaying loans once the projects are completed. This will help ensure the quality of projects, too, because no private firm is going to invest in aproject that is likely to fail.
The infrastructure bank would allow state transportation departments to move more projects off the books and to tackle other critical needs, so the Minnesota Department of Transportation could finally have the resources to focus on fixing highway 52 and Goodhue County Road 9, or projects in Missouri, Maryland, or Oregon.
There are needs all over this country. I want to make an important point here that the American taxpayer needs to know, and that is thatthey would be protectors as well. Projects would be reviewed by staff separate from the board. There are strong oversight protections and projects would have to be backed by a dedicated revenue stream.
All of this is part of the reason that this infrastructure bank has always had bipartisan support. Senator Kerry has worked very hard on this legislation, as have many of my Republican colleagues. They have suggested a similar mod until this build-back. It has 10 bipartisan cosponsors. Beyondbipartisan congressional support, an infrastructure bank has earned the support of people as far ranging as the Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO.
With the initial infusion of $10 billion that the Rebuild America Act proposes, it is estimated that it could leverage private investment to generate between $300 billion and 600 billion in infrastructure improvements. The infrastructure bank is the kind of bold and new action that we should be taking as a nation.
Coming from a state as I dowhere there is a large rural population, I also think it's important to note that rural America, whether in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana or Nevada should not be left behind here. The infrastructure bank would be structured so that the kinds of projects that are important to rural regions, like drinking water and sanitary sewer systems, could also compete for loans and loan guarantees.
Right now too many repair and replacement projects in our nation's drinking water and sanitary sewer systems are endangered by a lack of funding. According to the2008 EPA Survey of Needs, Minnesota needs $4.1 billion to upgrade our drinking and sanitary water systems alone. And in 2011 alone, my state has $400 million worth of projects that are just sitting there. Clean water projects are vital to the safety of our communities, particularly our rural communities. We all benefit from projects that will protect our environment, help create jobs and support local infrastructure.
Let me give you an example. In Southwestern Minnesota we'rework upon a three-state effort with Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota to get water to 20 communities. The region's current lack of water has brought economic development to a standstill in an area where there are all kinds of possibilities for development in an ag community. According to the manager of the Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water System in Minnesota, this lack of clean water has forced a community to turn away businesses that would have otherwise opened in the area. Including a large dairy plant, a large cattle feeding operation, biofuels plants, that's just in the last five years.
In other words, thecommunity has lost untold jobs and economic growth because it lacks the water. Importantly, the infrastructure bank that the Rebuild America Jobs Act would create also includes a technical assistance to rural communities and 5% of the initial investment that capitalize the bank would be designated for projects in these very areas. That's $500 million for rural America.
As we move forward with this conversation, we can't lose sight of the critical importance of the multiyear surfacetransportation bill.
This is something we need and we need it now. The surface transportation bill gives certainty to state departments of transportation so that they can make the multiyear planning decisions on how to best spend the federal and state resources.
The certainty of a multiyear bill also benefits the private sector. Once states know how much they can put towards infrastructure projects, then they can begin contracting with the companies -- private companies – in engineering, design, and construction.
These are companies like Caterpillar, which employs 750 people at its road paving equipment manufacturing facility in Minnesota. I visited there in August. Caterpillar's employees are the kind of people who are out there on the front lines of American industry. They are people that make the slogan "Made in America" not just a slogan; it's real. And they depend on the certainty that only a multiyear transportation bill provides. We have an opportunity to give them that certainty.
I know Chairman Boxer andSenator Inhofe have been working on this out of their Committee, but I did want to keep in mind in this as we work on the Rebuild America Jobs Bill and we work on the transportation bill that we're talking about today that I would like to get passed by the end of this year, that we also are cognizant of the fact that there is a very important two-year bill that they are debating at this very moment.
When we look at the state of our nation's infrastructure, there's no escaping the fact that we are far from where we need to be. Our 21st century economy depends on a 21st century transportationnetwork. It's just that simple.
Fixing our infrastructure is one of the best possible ways to strengthen our nation's most basic foundation. The channels we use for everything from commerce and exporting to emergency management and disaster response. But I also believe it's about bringing America back to the brass tacks.
We know we need to do something about our debt and I believe we can get there with a balanced approached and looking at closing some of these loopholes. But even thenwe must focus on what will move our economy forward in the long term. We simply can no longer base our economy on being the country that just simply churns money and shuffles paper, simply being a country that consumes the imports and spends its way to a huge trade deficit. That has not worked.
What we need to be now is a country that makes things again, that invents things, that exports to the world. And the only way we're going to make that happen, if we have the roads and the bridges andthe rail and the barges and the airlines to carry these goods to market. That's what this is about. We cannot put it off any longer. We must move forward now in a bipartisan manner to get this done for our country. I urge my colleagues to support this bill. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I yield the floor.