Imagine as the CEO of a business or the head of a household, that you limited your long-term planning to six months. That’s how Congress has been managing transportation and infrastructure since 2009, when the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act- A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) expired. Eight short-term extensions have only served as a Band-Aid. Repeated delays have hurt our economy, stymied job creation and allowed for the continued deterioration of our nation’s roads, highways, bridges and transit.

While some in Congress think they are saving money, the public pays the price for the government’s lack of action. Unattended maintenance leads to traffic snarls, more car repairs and accidents that endanger loved ones. Businesses pay the price in lowered work production as employees toil in traffic and truck shipments miss deadlines. The California Transportation Commission estimates that Californians lose 458 million hours annually due to congestion.

Much of America’s transportation infrastructure is in disrepair and the gap between what we need and what we can afford is widening. The 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax that funds the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) hasn’t changed since 1993 when the price of gasoline was less than $1.25 per gallon.  Add in the increase in vehicle fuel efficiency and the increase in construction costs and you have an HTF with less purchasing power each year. That is not a solid foundation for a competitive, 21st century economy and transportation system.

Our municipalities have picked up the slack. In California, 65 percent of transportation dollars come from local sources; in the Southern California Association of Governments region, it’s as high as 74 percent. Regions as diverse as Los Angeles and Orange County have approved tax increases to fund repairs to roads and bridges, maintain highways and develop mass transit systems. However, it’s not enough. Our local transportation agencies need a multi-year federal commitment that maintains our existing federal infrastructure and streamlines the timeline for improvements.

We are closer now than at any other time since 2009 to getting a new multi-year reauthorization. Both the House and Senate have released legislation that has been working its way through committees and should be on the floor soon after Congress returns from President’s Day recess this week. The Senate’s two-year $109 billion bill has achieved broad bi-party consensus, while the House’s five-year $260 billion language has come under fire for partisanship. In the past, investments in infrastructure have generally been above party politics, unfortunately that seems to no longer be the case even though there are many areas of agreement in both bills, including expanded funding for America Fast Forward.

Every $1 billion invested in our infrastructure system creates 18,000 jobs. For a Congress whose mantra is supposed to be “jobs, jobs, jobs,” there has been a lot of fiddling while Rome burns. It’s imperative that Congress douse the flames and set our infrastructure on the right course. That’s what our Los Angeles delegation will be telling members of Congress during ACCESS Washington, D.C. on March 5-7. Join us in person or take the time today to personally urge your member of Congress to pass transportation reauthorization this spring.