Unlike short term stimulus measures, the Steel Interstate is not a “one shot in the arm” effort. As with the Interstate Highway program over the past 50 years, the Steel Interstate would pump economic investment into the nation’s transportation infra-structure over many decades. Some critics of the recent national stimulus program known as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have zeroed in on the small portion of the Act devoted to infrastructure. Meanwhile, construction spending in July, 2010 fell to the lowest point in a decade. [Chandra,S., "Construction Spending in U.S. Fell Twice as Much as Forecast ," Bloomberg Businessweek, 9-1-10] Analysis from The Financial Times shows 120,000 construction-related jobs were lost in the last three months alone. [Politi, J., "Building industry holds key to rebuilding U.S. jobs," Financial Times, 8-30-10]
While the overall economy is improving and adding jobs most months, albeit slowly, the construction sector is an exception, said Ken Simonson, chief economist with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), an industry trade association. July construction employment fell by 11,000 jobs. The threat will expand over the next year as stimulus funding dries up in the first half of 2011. “Stimulus is having a limited benefit,” Simonson said. [DePaul, J., "Construction spending drop worries industry," The Fiscal Times, 9-2-10]
By contrast, the Steel Interstate is a sustainable national transportation investment program that will produce jobs in this country over many decades to come. Construction jobs, as well as purchase of rail material and rolling stock, will stimulate domestic manufacturing and help put people adversely affected by the recession back to work. A wide range of goods and services will be needed to build and support the network over several decades as it is built and goes into operation.
Graphic: Craig Thorpe
Since it offers a conceptually new system for passenger and freight movement in the U.S., investment in a North American Steel Interstate System would expand economic opportunity in the United States and promote job growth and entrepreneurial opportunities, both in existing manufacturing and construction businesses, as well as in research and development. This enterprise would expand economic opportunity in the United States and promote job growth, both in existing manufacturing and construction businesses, as well as in research and development. Entrepreneurial opportunities, unforeseen at this juncture, will emerge and be taken advantage of as the system begins to operate. The demand for railroad workers to manage and operate a robust national steel interstate system will also create respected, well-paying jobs in many communities throughout the country.
Upgrading of the nation’s transportation infrastructure is vital to the efficient, economical movement of people and goods. The Interstate Highway System has helped enormously, but declining oil resources and mounting environmental objections to massive road projects demand a new transportation paradigm for the 21st Century. The Steel Interstate meets this need. And transportation capacity return on investment (ROI) for the North American Steel Interstate System will be far higher than ROI incremental expansion of the largely built-out interstate highway system. In an era of tight transportation funding, maximum ROI is an essential criterion for responsible use of taxpayers' money.