It's a familiar refrain to anyone involved in transportation: Infrastructure investment means jobs. But the transportation sector hasn't cornered the market on the "jobs" talking point. For environmentalists, investment in clean technology means jobs. For unions and manufacturers, products built in the United States mean jobs.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has connected the aforementioned dots in a single bill dubbed the SMART Act that attempts to encourage the growth of the domestic transportation-manufacturing industry by giving preference to domestic supply chains when the government awards infrastructure grants. The idea is to expand public transit and rail services using domestic manufacturers. Brown expects that 27,600 transit buses, 4,000 passenger rail cars and locomotives, and 220 light-rail cars will need replacing over the next six years. If all of that production went on inside the United States, it would be a significant boost to the economy, he argues.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, are cheering Brown's emphasis on mass transit and rail. Those investments reduce traffic congestion and reduce the carbon-burning toll on the environment. In a nutshell, Brown's proposal is a win-win-win for environmental, labor, and manufacturing groups. (The only trouble for anyone advocating such investments is that it costs money.)
Setting aside the cost of such investments for a moment, can there be a solid marriage between environmentalists, domestic-manufacturing advocates, unions, and the transportation community? Does it make sense for separate coalitions like this to come together to advocate for infrastructure investment? Is Brown right that investments in mass transit and rail are big job creators? Can highway maintenance be considered under the "green jobs" banner? Are domestic manufacturers a viable option for developers of high-speed rail or other transit products?