Rebuild Our Infrastructure to Jump-Start Our Economy
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This year we’ve got a fighting chance to get our economy moving, get Americans working, and tackle long-overdue projects to modernize crumbling infrastructure. Nearly everyone agrees that making fiscally responsible investments in our transportation and infrastructure is a legitimate function of government—and that it can pave the way for stronger economic growth and job creation. Congress must push through the gridlock that has contributed to our idling economy and move on core transportation bills—now.
Though belated, we’re off to a good start. After more than four years of delays and 23 stopgap measures, Congress finally passed a long-term reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). At last, the FAA will have the resources to modernize our air traffic control system and repair America’s airports. This will ease delays, conserve fuel, improve the flow of commerce, create jobs, and save lives.
Lawmakers must also pass legislation to maintain investment in our roads, bridges, and transit systems. SAFETEA-LU, the law that sets surface transportation policies and funding, expired more than two years ago. To bridge the gaps, Congress has passed eight short-term extensions, perpetuating a cycle of uncertainty that has been a major drag on our economy.
The federal government contributes 45% of highway and transportation investments around the country, and public and private funding at the local level makes up the balance. States and communities are justifiably hesitant to put up the cash for new projects without assurance that the federal government will kick in its share for more than 90 days. So projects have stopped. Workers have been laid off. Economic output has sputtered. All the while, our roads and bridges fall further into disrepair, and our transit fleets and systems continue to age.
Congress can break that cycle by passing a multiyear reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU— and with the latest short-term extension set to run out in March, lawmakers have got to move quickly. The bill should consolidate programs, eliminate mandates, and cut red tape and bureaucracy. It should maintain current funding levels, while prioritizing resources for critical projects and shrewdly leveraging public funds to attract private investment.
By making smart infrastructure investments, we could achieve nearly $1 trillion in unrealized economic potential and create millions of jobs. As long-term transportation legislation is debated in the House and Senate, the U.S. Chamber urges lawmakers to set aside politics, resolve differences, pass legislation, and send it to the president for his signature—and fast. We’ve got an economy to jump-start.