Ed Talks: Ask Congress to Fix America’s Infrastructure

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I have been advocating for American infrastructure for more than 20 years. Throughout 2018, I travelled to many parts of the country to speak with business leaders about infrastructure and transportation.

I also saw firsthand some of the real transportation problems communities are facing, and appreciated the comments I heard about the historic and continued need for federal funding along with local and state monies and private-sector investment when appropriate.

This is why we need to ask local Representatives and U.S. Senators to support a new infrastructure bill that includes sustainable investment for the nation’s transportation system.

Please take a moment and fill out and pass on this Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition petition. We need this kind of measurable mechanism to leverage our voices, further our outreach, and mobilize users in a way Congress and the Administration get.

Fixing America’s infrastructure is, admittedly, a complicated issue. There have been multiple factors seen as possible predictors for change — for instance, green infrastructure and infrastructure that can better withstand powerful weather events, urban centers that will be affected by technology such as autonomous vehicles, or whether an infrastructure bank is the proper course to trigger private-sector investment.

But none of these should remove the crucial part federal funding and federal policy should play in making America’s transportation system faster, better and safer.

We can all discuss topics such as how drones delivering products to consumers will impact mobility and the economy in the future but the fact also remains that America has roads, bridges and public transportation in bad shape that simply need the funds to be replaced or improved.

Federal Funding is Fundamental

Last week, the new Congress began. Among its priorities, I believe the topic of infrastructure looms larger than others.

Every Democrat and Republican should understand that modernizing America’s infrastructure is the bipartisan issue that can be the glue for our country. And broad polling of Americans supports this.

The cost to society of things staying as they are is too steep. Doing nothing amounts to a major price the public and labor and business must shoulder.

On the other hand, good infrastructure and certain investment ensure that the public’s safety and quality of life are preserved, and the nation’s business and labor sectors remain prosperous.

U.S. Infrastructure Behind Other Nations

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the percentage of total federal spending on transportation and water infrastructure was 2.5 percent in 2017, and public spending on transportation and water infrastructure as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 2.3 percent.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) pointed out that “Americans’ international peers enjoy more efficient and reliable services, and their public investment in infrastructure is on average nearly double that of the United States.”

The ATM maintains that this is troubling for a country whose highways, rural connectors, airports, ports, public-transit systems and multiple infrastructure grids are increasingly underfunded and overburdened because of an aging network.

The World Economic Forum’s “The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018” ranked the United States No. 9 in infrastructure. Countries that preceded the U.S. were: Hong Kong (1); Singapore; (2); the Netherlands (3); Japan (4); United Arab Emirates (5); Switzerland (6); France (7); and Korea (8).

As both a country and global actor, we should find this ranking unacceptable. This is why the ATM will continue to tell America’s transportation story to broaden awareness about the need for pioneering infrastructure legislation.

I hope we can count on your voice and involvement too.

Ed Mortimer, Executive Director of ATM & Vice President of Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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