Press Release | January 13, 2009

SELC calls on Congress to choose road repair, transportation alternatives in recovery package

The Southern Environmental Law Center today called on the congressional delegation from six southern states to support “fix-it-first,” transit, and other alternative transportation projects as the U.S. Congress deliberates how to spend as much as $1 trillion in an effort to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

In a letter to senators and representatives from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, the non-profit, non-partisan organization highlighted the critical importance of putting transportation infrastructure money toward cost-effective, environmentally sound projects instead of destructive, unnecessary highway construction. SELC outlines three criteria for guiding transportation funding in the economic stimulus package:

  • Fix-it-first. Address the enormous backlog of repair and maintenance needs on the region's aging and often unsafe roads and bridges. There are over 22,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in the region.
  • Provide more choices. Improve and expand public transit, passenger and freight rail, and other alternatives to driving.  
  • Protect people and the environment.  All projects must comply with all environmental laws and regulations – no exceptions.

“There is no reason we can't have economic prosperity without hurting our environment, our health, and our communities,” said Trip Pollard, SELC's Land & Community Program Director.  “State DOTs in the South have proposed far too many boondoggle projects for funding under the recovery package – new highways that would serve little transportation need while increasing sprawl, energy consumption, and global warming pollution.” The six-state region is the fastest sprawling in the U.S., with development consuming more land per capita than the rest of the country, he said.

A properly designed infrastructure package can enhance – rather than damage – communities, people's health, open spaces, and air and water quality, as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and fortify the economy against volatile oil prices.