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They don’t often see eye to eye, but business and labor do agree that fixing the nation’s infrastructure must be top of mind.
It “has to be a top priority for our nation,” said Mike Ducker, president and CEO of FedEx Freight and chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during the Infrastructure Week 2016 kickoff event at the U.S. Chamber. “The fact of the matter is the deterioration of our nation’s highways, bridges and ports (both air and ocean) is reaching crisis proportions.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) noted that nearly one-third of major roads in the United States are now in poor or mediocre condition. “From 2016 to 2025, each household will lose $3,400 each year in disposable income due to infrastructure deficiencies,” explained ASCE in a recent report.
Failing to maintain roads and bridges, as well as expanding them where needed, “results in longer passenger commutes and inconvenient traffic jams,” said Ducker. That can cost businesses dearly. Traffic congestion costs the trucking industry $49.6 billion in 2014, Ducker explained, and that doesn’t count the added expenses to stores and businesses affected by those delays.
U.S. Chamber president and CEO Tom Donohue added that Congress must act: “The longer we wait to address it, the more expensive it will be—and the more our economy and jobs will suffer.”
Donohue used the near-daily delays on Washington’s Metro subway system to illustrate the problem. “Government failed to make the necessary investments to ensure even the basic safety of this system,” he said.
Fixing our infrastructure will require money. Donohue noted there is $250 billion in private investment waiting to pour into infrastructure projects. “We need to remove the barriers that prevent that from happening.” In addition, the federal government must have the will to step up with more money of its own. “Now’s the time for a modest gas tax increase, when gas prices are down and the impact will be low,” said Donohue. If they’re convinced it won’t be wasted, the public will see it is money well-spent.
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka added labor’s support to the mix. “Inaction is a curse; investment is a blessing,” he declared.
Infrastructure is “one of the core functions of a civilized nation,” he told the audience. By investing in roads, bridges, airports, seaports, water, and energy infrastructure “we’ll be creating millions of good-paying jobs.”
Families, businesses, and workers depend on safe roads and bridges, efficient airports, and functioning water and energy infrastructure. Both the business community and labor agree, now is the time to fix it.