Building America’s Future Educational Fund and the JAX Chamber co-hosted a policy forum Jan. 5 to discuss how a strategic and long-term plan of smart infrastructure investments would grow the economy and enhance economic competitiveness. The discussion included a frank conversation on Jacksonville’s infrastructure challenges and ways to bring greater transparency to our nation’s transportation policy so that policy decisions are made based on economics, not politics.
“From roads and bridges to ports and aviation, infrastructure is the economic backbone of America that allows commerce to flow and keeps our quality of life high,” said former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.), co-chair of Building America’s Future. “However, the country is living off investments made several generations ago and has not reinvested in the systems needed to ensure that future generations can compete in a global market.”
“Investments in our transportation systems result in job creation,” said State Rep. Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville). “For our region to move forward, it begins with a greater understanding of the local infrastructure challenges, as well as the federal funding and financing options available.”
By 2030, an estimated 10 million more people will live in Florida. More people bring more commerce and greater transportation demands. Every American accounts for about 40 tons of freight to be hauled each year. An additional 2.8 billion tons of freight will be moved to and from major metropolitan regions in 2035.
“There is no question that one of the Jacksonville region’s greatest assets is its transportation infrastructure,” said Mayor Alvin Brown (D-Jacksonville). “The need to efficiently move goods and people around the Jacksonville region and nation will only increase as the population increases. In order to strengthen the region’s position as America’s Logistics Center, we encourage Congress to act on a long-term, robust and reformed transportation bill and ensure our port, airports, roads and rail are ready for future growth.”
The panel also agreed that national metrics and clear funding criteria were needed.
"When we go to work, we are judged on performance, and so should government projects,” said Wally Lee, president of the JAX Chamber. “Performance metrics should be in place before any funding to ensure that we’re maximizing our taxpayer investment. Whenever possible, we should also encourage state and local innovation through competitive incentives, streamline the project delivery process and make sure that projects start and end on time and on budget, and deliver the promised results.”