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The need to modernize America’s infrastructure is well documented. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives the nation’s infrastructure a D+, and the state of Pennsylvania is only slightly better with a C-. Meanwhile, American businesses lose $170 billion in productivity annually due to inadequate infrastructure.
Fixing our nation’s broken infrastructure requires leadership from our nation’s elected officials, which is why it is so important that Representative Conor Lamb, has made infrastructure one of his top priorities. Lamb was instrumental in securing funding for a major, 75,000 square-foot cargo facility expansion at the Pittsburgh International Airport through an $18.7 million BUILD grant. More air cargo capacity at the airport will translate into more jobs, investment, opportunity, and economic growth for the entire region.
Congressman Lamb also built bipartisan support for adjustments to the funding mechanism for western Pennsylvania’s aging and critical locks and dams which were at risk of catastrophic failure. Further investments in inland waterways extends the life of roads and bridges, increases air quality, and reduces commuter time for workers.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, reducing revenue into state infrastructure programs and threatening ongoing and future construction efforts, Representative Lamb joined with Representative Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) to convince 135 of his House colleagues to sign a letter to House leadership urging emergency relief funding for state departments of transportation (DOTs).
But much more needs to do be done. It is critical that Congress pass and the president sign into law a major package to make long-overdue investments in our nation’s infrastructure. It is equally important that the package include key priorities for the Pittsburgh region, including significant investment to address structurally deficient bridges and highways, funding for public transit, research and development to spur innovation and smart transportation, and dollars for railway repair and development. Thankfully, Representative Lamb has used his position on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to ensure that the bill proposed by the House does just that.
No matter the outcome of the upcoming election, America needs long-lasting, bipartisan solutions to modernize our nation’s infrastructure. After all, Pittsburgh is the region where world-shaping, future-focused nexts are happening now – in advanced manufacturing, healthcare and life sciences, energy, finance and tech, including robotics and AI.
And it needs an infrastructure to match its modern needs. Getting the job done will require building on Representative Lamb’s work over the past two years and getting other members of Congress to follow his lead.
Neil Bradley is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.