On January 11, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue outlined our American Growth Agenda during the Chamber’s annual State of American Business address. Economic growth is the Chamber’s number one priority for 2017, and it should be no surprise that modernizing the nation’s infrastructure is a critical part of the growth agenda.
Here’s why: Our businesses need to operate within an infrastructure system that is strong and efficient in order for our economy to grow. This country's past and present successes are tied to the ability to move people and goods. Failing to provide long-term infrastructure investment means our transportation system will only decline.
Unfortunately, the state of our nation’s infrastructure today–once the envy of the world–is, in a word, troubled. The system is in desperate need of modernization. Our interstate highways were developed in the 1960s, our inland waterways are operating with 100-year-old locks and dams, our transit systems are aging, and a recent report for the U.S. Department of Transportation cites $90 billion in unmet transit repair needs. Even more concerning is the American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card, which rates the nation’s infrastructure as a D+.
The problem is clear. So what are the solutions? Here are a few things we’ll be pushing for:
- Safeguard funding and financing strategies for a national system that has kept our economy moving, maintained our global competitiveness, and ensured our quality of life and safety for generations.
- Include a long-term sustainable funding source in order to guarantee that large-scale improvements can be made. We welcome the potential for financing from the private sector, but it cannot be a substitute for sustainable and ongoing funding.
- Put in place accountability measures, best practices, and performance requirements to assure what projects qualify for funding and to ensure the quality of those projects.
- Embrace new technologies that can, for example, address the impact of autonomous vehicles and integrate other advancements.
This opportunity to modernize the nation’s infrastructure in 2017 is critical to America’s long-term economic growth. In fact, a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 64 percent of Americans say funding infrastructure should be a priority for the Trump administration and this year’s Congress.
NOTE: On Thursday, January 26 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time, Ed Mortimer participated in a Facebook Live chat on the state of American infrastructure. You will be able to watch it below or on the U.S. Chamber's Facebook page.
About the authors
Ed Mortimer was formerly vice president of Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.