From the Desk of Jon Tester: Internet Service

To: Darryl James, Executive Director, Montana Infrastructure Coalition

Dear Darryl,

Thank you for contacting me about internet service in Montana, and the importance of staying connected during the COVID-19 outbreak.  I am fighting to slow the spread of the virus and to ensure that Montanans receive the support they need during these uncertain times.

COVID-19 has disrupted daily American life.  Now more than ever, it is critically important for Montana to have reliable access to high-speed internet.  That’s why I voted for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748).  This bill includes $100 million for the ReConnect program, an initiative to increase high-speed internet access in rural areas.  The CARES Act also included $50 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to expand digital network access in areas of the country where such access is lacking.

I also am pushing Senate leadership to pass my bipartisan bill, the Keeping Critical Connections Act (S. 3569).  This bill would establish a fund to compensate rural broadband providers for offering free or discounted services to families who are struggling to keep up with their bills due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  This legislation would help students in rural areas stay on top of their education as they transition to online learning and allow families to stay connected as more Montanans stay home.  To see what resources are available in your area, visit the Federal Communications Commission:

I will continue to fight for the needs of Montanans as we work through this unprecedented situation.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.


Jon Tester
United States Senator

Crumbling Infrastructure

Last week, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) notified the public of a significant safety concern with bridge decks in the I-15/I-90 interchange in Butte.  (See attached video for illustration of the structural decay).  These structures were built in 1963, and are nearing the end of their expected 50-year lifespan.  At 53 years old, these structures exceed the average age of American highway bridges by 11 years.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), over 68,800 bridges – representing more than 11 percent of total highway bridges in the U.S. – are classified as “structurally deficient.”  (see graphic below)  Structurally deficient bridges require significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.  According to FHWA’s 2009 statistics, $70.9 billion is needed to address the current backlog of deficient bridges.

Allowing roads and bridges to slip into disrepair ultimately costs state and local governments billions more than the cost of regular, timely repair.  Over a 25-year period, deferring maintenance of bridges and highways can cost more than three times as much as preventative repairs.  The backlog also increases safety risks, hinders economic prosperity and significantly burdens taxpayers.

Transportation for America suggests that “preservation efforts can also extend the expected service life of a road for an additional 18 years, preventing the need for major reconstruction or replacement. In addition to the safety imperative, investing in the construction, expansion and repair of our nation’s transportation infrastructure creates jobs today while laying the foundation for long-term economic prosperity.  Repair work on roads and bridges generates 16 percent more jobs than construction of new bridges and roads.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that “America is currently spending more failing to act on our investment gap than we would to close it.  Inefficient infrastructure is costing every household $9.30 a day. However, if every family instead invested an additional $3.00 a day per household, we could close the infrastructure investment gap in 10 years.”

This emergency project is a clear priority, but we cannot ignore the looming threat of our aging roads and bridges and the exponentially mounting costs associated with doing nothing.  The Infrastructure Coalition intends to make transportation infrastructure investment a priority in the 2017 legislative session to ensure adequate funding levels to address the most critical roadway and bridge needs at state and local levels.

About the Montana Infrastructure Coalition– The Montana Infrastructure Coalition is an association of over 60 public and private organizations involved in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of our most critical infrastructure in Montana.  The purpose of this Coalition is to help change public policy and improve the manner in which State and local governments build and maintain these essential community assets.

Montana Near Top in Construction Job Losses

Regardless of the manner in which one supports an investment of public monies into infrastructure projects and whether it is good economic policy, the economic effect of not investing in infrastructure is indisputable. Information released by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) this week shows that Montana joins just 13 other states and the District of Columbia in job losses in the construction sector over the last year.

We all understand the importance of clean water and safe roads in every community, but training and retaining the labor force required to maintain those facilities is also necessary to their continuing operation, and Montana is losing ground.

Montana ranks fourth in the real number of construction jobs lost (-1,900) and second in percentage of construction jobs lost over the past 12 months (-7.2 percent). While several factors are at play, the lack of a consistent and reliable flow of infrastructure projects has resulted in layoffs and relocations. As work slows here, Montana contractors seek work in neighboring states or lose their employees to nearby markets with more construction activity like Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and California.

The Infrastructure Coalition is working on a non-partisan legislative package that will help to address some of our most pressing infrastructure needs. Please join us in expressing your support for comprehensive and sustainable legislation that will begin to address critical infrastructure needs, keep our talented workforce fully employed, and shore up the foundations of a healthy economy in Montana.

About the Montana Infrastructure Coalition

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition is an association of over 60 public and private organizations involved in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of our most critical infrastructure in Montana. The purpose of this Coalition is to help change public policy and improve the manner in which State and local governments build and maintain these essential community assets.