“The impact of a crumbling infrastructure is tangible.”
Yesterday evening at a standing room only Politico event at the Newseum, a range of stakeholders and lawmakers presented the case for strengthening the country’s transportation infrastructure. Hosted by Americans for Modern Transportation, speakers outlined a clear need for major infrastructure investments, but differed on the logistics and nature of those efforts.
“The impact of a crumbling infrastructure is tangible,” said Randy Mullett, a trucking industry expert and principal at Mullett Strategies. “2014 traffic delays were estimated to cost over $160 billion in wasted time and fuel, and drivers spent more than 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic.”
Over 122 million households and 7.5 million domestic businesses rely on the transportation system every day to obtain goods, and demand is only increasing.
“Everybody is getting more than they contribute to the current system,” said Ed Mortimer from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The U.S. Interstate Highway System wasn’t built for a profit—there is a clear role for the government here.” Mortimer added that there has been a push from major corporate and business interests for strengthened infrastructure for many years that has gone unheeded. “The business community is not going to let this go by. We can’t control Capitol Hill, but we can advocate for businesses all over the country that say they need modern infrastructure.”
“The U.S. Interstate Highway System wasn’t built for a profit—there is a clear role for the government here.”
In addition to strengthening the backbone of the American economy, modernizing the country’s transportation infrastructure cuts fuel waste by streamlining traffic flow and reducing accidents.
Mortimer also argued that while existing inefficiencies are important, the upside of infrastructure improvements are too significant to delay action. “We have to make sure that the money collected is being utilized properly, then we can go to taxpayers and say we need to pay more, and these are the needs that need to be met. The focus will be on which projects have the greatest economic return.”
To that point, Marcia Hale of Building America’s Future, said that accountability and demonstrating return on investment can contribute to making the case for infrastructure projects. “Part of our challenge here in DC should be showing people exactly what they are going to get for this—like transformational projects such as the interstate highway system.”
“Technology improvements such as Twin-33 foot trailers, smart road technologies, connected vehicles, driver assist technology, and increased investment in the Highway Trust Fund will support a productive and efficient interstate commerce system that works for all drivers,” said Mullett.
“Technology improvements such as Twin-33 foot trailers, smart road technologies, connected vehicles, driver assist technology, and increased investment in the Highway Trust Fund will support a productive and efficient interstate commerce system that works for all drivers.”
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) also commented on the need for congressional action, although they differed slightly in approach. Fischer advocated for smaller bills that address the transportation system section by section. Klobuchar argued in favor of a major, comprehensive infrastructure bill based on the FAST Act. She also noted that President Trump, on the night of the election, specifically mentioned infrastructure as a priority, and she highlighted that revitalizing infrastructure is an area where Democrats and Republicans can work together. “One of our best accomplishments in recent years was the FAST Act that was worked on by Mitch McConnell and Barbara Boxer,” she said.
“We are willing to stand by lawmakers who are willing to make difficult decisions,” said Mortimer. “We will stand by lawmakers willing to invest in the long term economic growth of the country.”