Everyday, millions of unemployed Americans anxiously wait for their chance to get back to work. And as gas prices skyrocket, millions more are desperately searching for affordable, reliable ways to get to their jobs each day.
Congress has a chance right now to pass a transportation bill that will do more to get Americans back to work than just about anything else they've proposed. They have a chance to make us all safer on our daily commutes, and to protect our lungs from the pollution that causes asthma and heart disease and leads to millions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs each year. They have a chance to give us better transit choices that will make our lives easier.
America's transportation system is in desperate need of repair. Our bridges and roads are crumbling beneath us. In fact, roughly one out of every four bridges in this country is not safe. The last thing we need is for our aging infrastructure to cause a disaster -- we haven't forgotten the devastation of the bridge collapse in Minnesota a few years ago -- an accident that could have been prevented.
We all know we have work to do to make sure our roads, bridges, rails and buses are safe and efficient. But if we do the job right, we can lift people out of poverty and slash pollution while we're at it.
As we rebuild and repair our transportation system, we need to make sure that all Americans have access to the jobs that are created. That's why Green for All has designed a program that creates pathways to the middle class by helping people gain valuable construction training and experience. By encouraging the hiring of local workers for transportation projects, the Construction Careers Demonstration Program keeps dollars close to home and helps revitalize communities. It also helps rebuild the middle class by creating pathways to good careers. Apprenticeships give new workers a foothold in the industry and a chance to learn new skills. The program also creates opportunities for Americans that need them most -- including young people, veterans and homemakers re-entering the workforce. It also encourages using small local businesses to do contract work whenever possible. Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) has worked to include the Construction Careers program as part of the Senate transportation bill -- provisions that will go a long way towards reviving our communities.
But by and large, our elected officials have failed to produce a bill that will do anything but fill the coffers of the oil industry. They've dropped the Safe Routes to School program -- designed to help communities that want their kids to bike and walk without fear of being hit by cars. They've gutted funding for public transit like rail and buses, making it harder for people to find reliable, cost-effective ways to get to their jobs.
If Congress is serious about putting Americans back to work -- if they're serious about reviving communities, keeping our roads and bridges safe, and protecting our kids and our health -- they'll pass a transportation bill that America needs now. If they want joblessness to keep climbing, small businesses and neighborhoods to wither, traffic accidents to rise, and more and more kids to struggle with asthma, they'll keep on doing what they've been doing.
We need our representatives to stand with the American people -- not Big Oil -- and make transportation choices that create safer, healthier, communities and pathways into middle class jobs. Tell your representative that you want a smart transportation bill that supports hardworking Americans, not Big Oil.
Follow Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/phaedrael