Want to Stimulate the Economy? Fix the Potholes!

According to a CNN poll released last month, nearly three out of four Americans think that much of the money spent in the federal stimulus plan has been wasted. Of course, most of us didn’t need a poll to reach that conclusion.

The stimulus, aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was viewed as necessary at the time, but one year later try to find someone who has benefited from the $787 billion package.

“There is much skepticism that the bill is wasteful, full of politically-motivated projects, and has benefited fat cats at the expense of ordinary Americans,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

To its credit, the White House recently invited several CEOs and industry leaders to a jobs summit to address some of these concerns. The $660 billion truck industry was represented by Charles “Shorty” Whittington, former Chairman of the American Trucking Association (ATA). The ATA supported the stimulus, believing that a healthy percentage of the fund would be devoted to improving existing highways, and building new ones.

Thus far, that hasn’t happened. Only about 3 percent of the government money has found its way into road construction. That’s not enough – not by a long shot. Whittington urged Congress and the Obama Administration to expedite funding for ready-to-go highway projects, and to pass a long-term highway bill with significant funding for highway projects that yield national and regional economic benefits.

Of course, other industries are also making their case for a larger slice of the government pie, so we shouldn’t leave the ATA on its own in making our voice heard. Our industry has been hit hard by the recession; truck shipments dropped 25% from March 2008 to April 2009, and while the numbers are slowly climbing, the so-called recovery still has a long way to go.

If new highways can eliminate some of the bottlenecks, the trucking industry could save $19 billion every year. That money could be used to buy new fleets, new equipment, and put people back to work.

And the public is on our side as well. A CNN poll shows that 80 percent of Americans support spending stimulus funds to build or repair roads and bridges. If this sounds like a good idea to you, write your government representatives and let them know where you stand. Our industry directly or indirectly employs nearly nine million people in the U.S. If they hear from enough of us, perhaps some of that stimulus money will finally find its way out of the Washington sinkhole, and into the nation’s potholes.