The U.S. Chamber of Commerce knows it; we need to build
As readers of this blog know, I came to Washington after serving as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. And I know from that experience that first-rate infrastructure and job growth go hand-in-hand.
Just about every mayor in America can tell a story about a business considering locating in his or her city, with hundreds, sometimes thousands of jobs in the balance. Invariably, the business representative will bring up a road, a curb cut, or bridge that needs to be built or repaired to make a potential site work.
This morning, I had the opportunity to speak to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and my message to those business leaders was the same as it was when I was a mayor: "We want to build the transportation infrastructure that supports the economic growth and jobs you create."
As I've said before, the United States faces an ever-increasing infrastructure deficit. If not addressed, this infrastructure deficit will stunt the recovery we’ve begun and cripple our economy. I didn’t have to tell the Chamber of Commerce how big our infrastructure deficit is – they're the ones moving goods around America, and they're the ones whose employees need efficient ways to get to work. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, “deficiencies in our nation’s infrastructure will cost businesses more than $1 trillion every year in lost sales," and that if we don't act soon, our economy will take a $3.1 trillion hit before this decade is out.
But wanting to balance our infrastructure deficit and being able to do so are two different things. What happens to transportation spending when our Highway Trust Fund runs out--as soon as this August? What happens when the current transportation law, MAP-21, expires at the end of September? How can states, counties, regions, cities, and businesses make the long-term plans that infrastructure building requires in an environment defined by uncertainty?
Think about the growth that transportation has allowed in America's history--the Erie Canal, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway system. Are we really going to kill the goose that has laid so many golden eggs?
Of course we won't. We will move forward without turning our backs on the mobility and productivity that American transportation has allowed. And we will be led by our President, by our Congress, and by organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce and others, all of whom have ideas about how we can put our infrastructure on a sustainable course.
But we can only move forward when we work together.
As sure as we’re seeing the first signs of spring here in Washington, DC, we’re seeing signs of courage on Capitol Hill. There are policy makers who are ready to put our transportation system and how we fund it back on a sustainable path. And my message to the Chamber was to keep encouraging that courage.
Because the infrastructure deficit can be solved. It will take both grit and compromise, but it can be solved.