A key federal transportation stimulus program expired Feb. 28, and the construction industry fears it will face mass layoffs and financial loss unless $932 million in earmarks are approved within weeks.
“Federal funding has been giving contractors the lifeline they need to stay in business,” said Associated General Contractors of America chief economist Ken Simonson.“Without federal funds, total spending on highway and transportation projects is sure to plummet this year,” he said.
AGC Chief Executive Officer Stephen Sandherr estimated that 25 percent of construction workers are unemployed and that construction spending dropped by at least $100 billion during 2009.
“What this industry needs right now is the certainty that comes with passage of the six-year surface transportation program that has been the foundation of our economic prosperity for the past 50 years,” he said.
The gravity of the situation appeared to move some members of Congress to action.
House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) secured assurance that future legislation would include a provision that would apply 2009 earmarks to $932 million in 2010 transportation grants.