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Published March 05. 2012 05:02PM

American motorists drove almost 3 trillion miles in 2011.

That's like driving from the Earth to the sun and back 13,500 times.

The average American family drives 22,500 miles a year going to work, to the store, to visit friends and relatives, or to go on vacation.

Sadly, more and more of those trips are made on roads and bridges that are disintegrating.

Nationwide, almost one out of every five miles of our major highways is in poor or mediocre condition, and nearly one out of every four bridges is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

On an average day in the United States, almost 283 million vehicles cross a structurally deficient bridge.

That's how serious our nation's infrastructure problems are.

It's also why the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7) is critical for our nation's safety and economic health.

H.R. 7 commits the United States to a five-year, $260 billion program to rebuild and restore our highways and bridges. It reforms transportation programs, removes barriers to domestic energy production, and strengthens our economy.

It invests in our national infrastructure without raising taxes or borrowing more debt. It provides the stability of a long-term plan so states can undertake major projects.

Most importantly, the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act will put people back to work. People in Northeastern Pennsylvania and around the nation are in desperate need of work, and our infrastructure is in desperate need of updating. H.R. 7 links the two, and it will give construction companies stability so they can hire more employees and buy more equipment.

The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act is, quite simply, the largest transportation reform bill since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956.

Before my life in public service, my wife and I established the sixth-largest line-painting business in the nation. My family spent decades in the road construction business. I can tell you there are huge hurdles to leap when you want to fix or improve our infrastructure.

That's what makes this bill so remarkable.

H.R. 7 gives more power to state governments to set their own infrastructure priorities. Right now, Washington bureaucrats tell states how to spend their transportation dollars. I believe the states know what projects are most important to them. H.R. 7 puts the decision-making power in their hands.

The bill consolidates or eliminates 70 duplicative programs, reducing wasteful overspending. It streamlines and shortens the process by allowing multiple federal agencies to conduct simultaneous reviews of a transportation project. It sets hard deadlines for those agencies to approve projects.

We need to make our roads and bridges safer.

Included in the original bill was a provision to allow increased truck weights and length. Trucks longer than a Boeing 737 and weighing 50 tons would have been allowed on our highways.

As a former mayor, I know local roads are not built to support heavier trucks. Local roads would become potholed, buckled, and broken much more quickly. They would need to be repaired and replaced sooner, and the cost for that would fall squarely on local taxpayers.

Additionally, larger and heavier trucks are involved in a higher percentage of fatal traffic accidents.

That's why I introduced an amendment to maintain current truck size and weight limits while conducting a three-year study of the potential local and state costs such an increase might bring. I'm pleased to say my amendment passed the committee with bipartisan support.

Now, the final bill heads to the full House, and I strongly support its passage.

The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act will create jobs and fix or replace some of our worst roads and bridges.

It puts the United States on the road to restoring our economy and our infrastructure.

Rep. Lou Barletta

Pennsylvania's 11th District

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