By Senator John Thune
With one million bikers expected to take to the highways for the 75th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, and as tourist season remains well underway, there is no better time to stress the need for safe, reliable roads and bridges in South Dakota and across America.
Our transportation infrastructure keeps our economy and our nation moving. That is why I am pleased the U.S. Senate recently passed a multi-year highway bill by a vote of 65-34 that would fund federal highway and infrastructure projects for three years. The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act provides certainty to states across the country, does not increase the gas tax, and would be the longest highway funding measure in over a decade.
For too long, transportation funding has been subjected to one short-term extension after another – 34 short-term extensions since 2009 – that leaves those responsible for our nation’s transportation system without the certainty and predictability they need to maintain and improve the safety of our roads, bridges, and highways.
If Congress fails to provide state and local governments with this necessary certainty, they are hamstrung when it comes to authorizing certain projects or making long-term plans for transportation infrastructure. Such a scenario could mean that essential construction projects get deferred, necessary repairs might not get made, and jobs that depend on transportation are put in jeopardy.
The DRIVE Act answers the call for the type of long-term certainty state and local governments need. This legislation signals an important commitment to safe, quality highways and bridges in South Dakota that will help support our economy and ensure important industries such as tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing continue to thrive.
South Dakota agriculture producers and businesses rely on our interstate highway system to distribute their goods to stores across the United States and around the world. All of us depend on our nation’s roads and bridges to get from place to place every day – especially in a state like South Dakota where the distance between towns is often measured in hours.
This multi-year highway bill is another major legislative achievement for the Republican-led Senate and the result of months of hard work by multiple Senate committees, including the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which I chair. Republicans and Democrats alike had their voices heard during this process, and the final product is stronger because of it. It is critical the House and Senate finish a long-term highway bill in the coming months.
As this year’s rally approaches, I hope your travels throughout the state are safe. Motorcycles will be everywhere over the next few weeks, so remember to look twice and save a life.