Let's Rebuild America

President Trump and Congress have the rare opportunity to make history this year. Investing in infrastructure is essential to our prosperity, competitiveness, and quality of life.

It’s not a partisan issue. It’s an American priority.

Following in the footsteps of President Eisenhower, who championed the Interstate Highway System in 1956, and President Reagan, who raised the federal gas tax to improve public infrastructure in 1982, President Trump has the opportunity to rebuild our infrastructure.

The task now is to find the funding.

Most Americans agree that our roads, bridges, mass transit systems, air and sea ports, and water infrastructure are critical national assets that drive growth, jobs, safety, and global competitiveness.

However, we can't seem to agree on how to pay for badly needed repairs and maintenance. As we debate over infrastructure funding, America's roads, highways and bridges continue to deteriorate, while the public and small business pay the price.

A Common Sense Solution:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has taken a four-point approach to funding new infrastructure investment.

1. A modest increase in the federal fuel fee

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2. Expand financing options, like public-private partnerships, for local communities

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3. Streamline the permitting process to get projects off the ground

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4. Develop a skilled workforce to build these projects

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This four-part plan is intended to start the discussion.

The U.S. Chamber will work with any party, industry, labor, local or state leaders to spur economic growth by reinvesting in America's infrastructure.

Hindering Small Business Growth

Crumbling infrastructure represents a significant roadblock for American small businesses, according to the MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index. A majority of respondents say that highways, local roads and bridges are critical to the success of their companies. Problem is, 62% say that their local surface infrastructure is in average, poor, or very poor quality.

From product damage to employee safety, small business owners are dealing with the day-to-day costs and concerns of stalled infrastructure investment. By 2025, our crumbling infrastructure will have cost businesses $7 trillion.

If roads are better, our bottom line increases, and we can pass on savings to our clients.

Daniel Speer, small business owner in Washington, D.C.

The Toll on the American People

It is not just small businesses that pay the price. Every American family must deal with state of infrastructure in their day-to-day lives. Consider:

  • The average American loses 42 hours stuck in traffic each year. That’s time that could have been spent watching our children’s soccer games, cooking dinner with loved ones, or just binging Game of Thrones.
  • Meanwhile, our airports and air traffic control systems are so old we lose $9 billion annually in productivity from flight delays.
  • Our interstate highways were developed in the 1960s, and our inland waterways are operating with 100-year-old locks and dams.

1. A modest increase in the federal fuel fee.

Bear with us. We know handing over your hard-earned dollars to the government for infrastructure work is tough. But without a raise to the federal fuel fee, which hasn't been increased since 1993, the U.S will not be able to repair infrastructure at the rate it is deteriorating.

The Chamber plan proposes a five-cent increase over five years. “Increasing the fee by a total of $.25 cents, indexed for inflation and improving fuel economy, would raise $394 billion over the next 10 years,” said Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber.

The fee increase “would cost the average motorist about $9 a month,” Donohue said. But “our badly deteriorating roads are causing approximately $40 a month in increased maintenance and operating costs.”

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2. Expand financing options, like public-private partnerships, for local communities.

Besides fixing crumbling roads and bridges, we need a way to fund other projects like airports, seaports, waterways, electrical grids, broadband, and more. The Chamber proposes implementing a toolkit of options for supplemental funding and financing, including for the public to partner with the private sector.

“When it comes to private funding, there is huge potential. Between 2005 and 2015, infrastructure equity bonds raised about $350 billion,” said Donohue. “Since equity is about 25% of a typical public-private partnership, that $350 billion could support projects worth $1.4 trillion.”

The Chamber plan would strengthen and expand federal loan programs to facilitate public-private partnerships. Also state and local governments should leverage public dollars with federally-backed loans.

“Innovative financing mechanisms will allow us to meet today’s infrastructure needs and build for the future while financing the costs over the long-term,” said Donohue.

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3. Streamline the permitting process to get projects off the ground.

One important barrier keeping us from modernizing America’s infrastructure is reforming the permitting process. “Without permitting reform, all the funding the financing you could dream of won’t get the job done,” Donohue implored. “Projects become seriously delayed or even canceled and their budgets skyrocket due to an uncertain and seemingly endless permitting process.”

Instead of long, drawn-out permitting delays, the Chamber proposes permit streamlining, urging all federal infrastructure approvals to be completed within two years. State and local projects benefiting from federal funding or financing should also adhere to a two-year timeline, which should run concurrent to the federal process.

And to help streamline permitting and eliminate duplicative reviews, a single lead agency should shepherd a project through the process from start to finish.

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4. Develop a skilled workforce to build these projects.

Even if the funding is in place, and the approval process is smooth and certain, infrastructure projects won’t be built if there aren’t skilled workers available to do it.

“Nearly 80% of construction firms report that they are having a hard time finding qualified workers,” said Donohue. “At the same time, by some estimates, every $1 million in additional infrastructure spending means an additional six to seven construction jobs. Who is going to fill those positions?”

To get more skilled workers, we need more apprenticeship programs, allowing workers to learn on the job. Also, “policymakers should expand the network of sector-based construction partnerships under federal workforce programs. They should also reform and boost support for federal career and technical education programs, like the Perkins Act,” Donohue advised.

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U.S. Chamber Letter on FY21 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations

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The USG + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (CCI) is a quarterly economic index designed to gauge the outlook for, and resulting confidence in, the commercial construction industry.