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Building to Win: The Urgent, Acute Economic Need for Transportation Investments
BY NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS
Great nations build and invest in great infrastructure. The reason is simple: When people are better connected, when communities have greater access to economic opportunities and when manufacturers have efficient ways to move goods to market, the quality of life rises, productivity soars and societies thrive. Current U.S. infrastructure, however, is in an alarming state of disrepair and in urgent need of strong investments. ...
Investing in transportation infrastructure will invigorate the American economy and enhance our competitiveness on the world stage. And yet, despite the clear benefits, the United States has failed to adequately invest in modern, efficient transportation infrastructure.
A National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) study found that infrastructure investment as a percentage of real potential GDP has fallen precipitously over the past three decades. This dearth of investment wastes time and money and poses serious safety risks to workers, drivers and passengers.
After years of delays, Congress has taken steps to stem the decline in infrastructure investments. … [I]in late 2015, lawmakers passed a multiyear surface transportation bill, increasing investments in roads and bridges. … But these start-stop efforts merely maintain the status quo. They do not provide the kind of momentum and vision the nation needs to restore and upgrade transportation systems around the country.
From city streets to rural highways, the nation’s roads and bridges are clogged with traffic, and in many cases, they are in serious disrepair. It is completely unacceptable that 65 percent of major roads in the United States are rated “less than good condition.” …
Nothing short of American lives and livelihoods are threatened by our deteriorating roadways. Nearly 60,000 bridges across the United States are rated “structurally deficient;” … U.S. drivers and passengers cross these structurally deficient bridges nearly 204 million times a day. In addition to structural deterioration, traffic congestion costs both time and money, and it slows productivity. … Unless we act now to invest in infrastructure, by 2040, peak hour congestion will clog 34 percent of the nation’s highways.
For public transit, even as ridership has increased, a lack of funding has contributed to an aging system. The average age of a transit bus is 18.7 years, and nearly half of heavy rail cars in the United States need immediate replacement, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
Public transit is a vital mobility option for many workers across the country and helps ease congestion on roads and bridges. The construction, operation and maintenance of transit assets rely heavily on manufactured goods. …
In 2015, Amtrak ridership stood at 30.8 million, reflecting consistent demand for passenger rail in the United States. … Without adequate investments, increased competition and innovative business practices to help bring Amtrak into the 21st century, the system could become a significant drag on U.S. economic productivity. …
After years of congressional inaction and underinvestment, the gap between current spending and what is needed to revitalize U.S. infrastructure totals more than $1 trillion—a staggering sum. Some critics wrongfully contend that such numbers are exaggerated. But after years of stop and start efforts, instead of long-term solutions, we are left with an acute need. Rather than debating the scope of the problem, it is time to come together under a “Building to Win” strategy. …
This agenda offers a transportation blueprint to target specific priority investments that can deliver tangible results for U.S. manufacturers, businesses and American households. These span each of the critical transportation infrastructure sectors, collectively serving the vital needs of American businesses and communities and should be top priorities for the next Congress and president. …
Public Transit Overall Investment Needed: $86 Billion
Action Required: Eliminate the maintenance backlog and expand the reach of transit into more communities.
Amtrak Overall Investment Needed: $52 Billion
Action Required: Invest in Amtrak and promote regulatory and fiscal policies that incentivize continued record levels of private capital reinvestment in railroad infrastructure, as a majority of Amtrak services operate on track owned by freight railroads. …
State and Local Contributions
In addition to declining infrastructure spending by the federal government, state and local governments have cut back their infrastructure budgets in recent years. Spending by state and local governments on all types of capital declined as a share of GDP from 2.4 percent in the early 2000s to 1.9 percent in 2014. In response, many states have boldly pursued and passed legislation to provide new funding for local infrastructure needs.
The NAM believes that federal leadership is imperative to turn around the nation’s flunking grade on infrastructure. A sustained and focused effort will help reverse a troubling decline and create opportunities to address persistent backlogs and aging infrastructure.
Modernizing transportation infrastructure would not only jump-start economic growth, spur job creation and enhance the quality of life, but also create momentum that could be harnessed to make progress on other critical fronts. …
This blueprint from the NAM is intended to amplify an important conversation about infrastructure that has been underway for decades. What’s more, it should serve as an urgent call from manufacturers for elected officials to not only act, but act with purpose.
This “Commentary” is excerpted and reprinted with permission from Building to Win, published by the National Association of Manufacturers. Copyright ©2016. All rights reserved. Find the report here.
"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.