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Shipping goods across the country, powering our factories and stores, trading with other nations—many of the most basic functions of business require efficient infrastructure. It’s the physical platform of our economy, yet America’s decades-old infrastructure is crumbling. But thanks to new government leaders and a surge in bipartisan support, we now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make progress toward infrastructure modernization. And the business community is ready to help.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a long-time advocate for revitalizing and restoring America’s infrastructure. We’re an original founder of Infrastructure Week, an annual week of nationwide education and advocacy, which kicks off today with an event at Chamber headquarters in Washington, D.C. At this gathering, and throughout the coming debate, the Chamber will urge our leaders to focus on three core priorities for infrastructure modernization.
The first is to undertake major projects that support long-term economic growth by connecting our nation and making it competitive. We should focus on highways, bridges, railways, airports, intermodal connectors, and seaports. We must build pipelines, modernize the power grid, and expand broadband. Many of these projects could take a decade or more to complete. And while they may create some jobs and provide an initial economic boost, their real value will be as long-term investments in our economy—and we should select and manage them accordingly.
Second, any infrastructure reform bill should draw from a diverse toolkit of public and private financing options. Funding and financing should be tailored to each specific project and, where possible, utilize existing federal programs. At the same time, it will be necessary to find a long-term sustainable funding source, particularly for federal highway and transit projects. One idea is a modest increase to the federal gas tax—which President Trump recently expressed an openness to considering.
The third priority is to update regulations and permitting requirements to promote accountability, innovation, and speed. It shouldn’t take longer to approve projects than to build them! Moreover, the rulemaking and permitting processes must move quickly to keep up with rapidly advancing technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, that will increasingly impact our 21st century transportation system.
In Washington and across the country, there is a growing consensus that it’s time to rebuild America. Few investments would have a greater positive impact on our economy than infrastructure modernization—especially on small and midsize businesses that rely on efficient transportation of goods and reliable access to customers. For businesses, communities, and families, the economic benefit of modernization will be profound. It’s time to get it done. We must not let this moment pass us by.