Opinion: Bipartisan solutions needed to modernize infrastructure

Industry leaders call on Congress to act on infrastructure funding

Dennis Slater, Audrey Copeland, Ph.D., P.E., and Michael W. Johnson, IOM / February 11, 2019
U.S. Congress infrastructure plan

Our nation’s infrastructure is the backbone of our economy. Roads, rails, highways, and bridges move the people and products that makes our nation’s $20 trillion GDP possible. For example, in Indiana 78% of the state’s $761 billion worth of commodities are shipped each year to and from here by trucks on the state’s highways.

However, over the past several years, as a nation we have not invested in our infrastructure to ensure it will support a modern, 21st-century economy. Our ports are too small, our roads too congested and even the information superhighway needs to be faster. Challenges like these currently adds up to $130 billion a year in extra repairs and operating costs for commuters. A recent American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) report found the current backlog of needed road, highway and bridge improvements clocks in at $740 billion.

It is clear the U.S. is underprepared to support the kind of movement needed to stay competitive in today’s global economy. This a big reason why the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) often-cited annual Infrastructure Report Card gave the United States a D+ grade.

Our organizations represent many of the companies and industries that maintain, improve, and expand our infrastructure to meet the needs of today and the future. We are ready to go to work for America, but we cannot do it alone. We need policy solutions to fund and fix our infrastructure so we can add to the millions of jobs we support and generate millions of dollars more activity for our economy.

It’s not as if our elected officials in Washington haven’t talked about fixing and funding infrastructure; too often, that is all they have done. Talked.

The Trump administration and Democrats and Republicans in the new Congress have all pointed to a willingness to work together on a comprehensive infrastructure package, but we need more than willingness—we need a plan, and that plan must include an answer as to how to best fund infrastructure projects.

Federal funding for surface transportation currently is provided through the five-year, $305 billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, but that level of funding required Congress to look beyond the Highway Trust Fund for revenue, undermining the principle of road users paying for roadways. It is clear that the current funding level needed to improve our nation’s infrastructure still is not adequate, sustainable, or a long-term solution for the Highway Trust Fund.

We are looking to Congress to provide leadership and a bipartisan solution that addresses funding in a way a majority of members and the traveling public can get behind. For example, our groups support the bipartisan Move America Act, which was reintroduced by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would provide an important option for infrastructure financing. We also are looking for other members of Congress to leverage every tool at their disposal to pay for badly needed infrastructure maintenance, repair and modernization.

It's time for Washington to follow through with its promises. It’s time for Democrats and Republicans to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes long-term funding solutions. After all, polls show that Americans overwhelmingly want the federal government to act on infrastructure.

There are no more excuses. There’s a will, now we must work together to find a way.

About the Author

Slater is president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Copeland is president and CEO of the National Asphalt Pavement Association. Johnson is president and CEO of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.

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