Mayors from throughout the U.S. are standing by their call urging Congress to enact multiyear surface transportation legislation, which would include a significant investment in national infrastructure, including roadway repairs in the nation’s interior that help carry goods to U.S. seaports.
“Congress is dithering and debating whether to send to the President a surface transportation bill,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the 12th annual Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference in Long Beach, referring to legislation that in past years was approved in a perfunctory manner, but is hung up this week because of partisan wrangling.
Villaraigosa is the current president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which includes in its membership mayors of cities across the country that are struggling to expand or replace their aging roads, bridges and intermodal connectors.
A report prepared by IHS Global Insight and released at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., last week, calls for infrastructure investment to help businesses get their products from cities, many of which are in the interior U.S., out to seaports.
Villaraigosa said the nation’s ports are doing their part to accommodate growing exports. Ports are investing their own money and are teaming up with carriers and terminal operators to expand their infrastructure, but they can’t do it alone, Villaraigosa added.
It will take a local, state and federal partnership in the public sector, he said, along with partnerships with the private sector, to make this happen. Until recently, cities have not been at the table when it comes to crafting national freight policy, but at the Jacksonville meeting, the mayors pushed an infrastructure development program to spur exports.
The action, supported by the IHS Global Insight study, stated that U.S. exports will grow by 70 percent in the coming decade. Ports are investing billions of dollars to prepare for this growing trade volume. Villaraigosa noted that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach combined plan to invest $8 billion in capital expansion during the coming decade.
Linking inland cities with seaports, by definition, involves interstate commerce; in order for this to be accomplished, Congress must approve a surface transportation bill that helps to fund a goods movement network that crosses state lines, he added.
Developing national infrastructure, Villaraigosa said, has been a non-partisan endeavor for 60 years, and Congress must continue that tradition. “When you invest in a transportation system, you invest in your economy,” he said.