U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue on Thursday called for policy and law makers to rethink the debate over transportation infrastructure from a "scattershot and selfish" approach to one that's driven by the performance of the entire transportation system.
"We want to fundamentally change the way we think and talk about transportation," Donohue said. "We want to shift the public debate and discussion from shovel ready, scattershot approaches and selfish 'what's in it for me' attitudes to a focus on investing for performance that will add to long-term economic growth."
Donohue spoke at a chamber luncheon that introduced the Transportation Performance Index, a statistical tool to rate the performance of transportation infrastructure against the economy as a whole.
The index was created by a team of experts led by Janet Kavinoky, executive director of Let's Rebuild America, the chamber's advocacy program for infrastructure improvement. It is composed of 21 indicators that measure transportation performance by availability, quality of service, and its ability to sustain future growth.
Between 1990 and 2008 the index grew 6 percent, but U.S. population grew 22 percent, passenger travel grew 39 percent and freight movement increased 27 percent. The greater demands on the system predict a decline in the index in the future, Donohue said.
Given the increased demand "it's a testimony to American ingenuity that the Index is not worse," Donohue said. "Future projections are grim. If we pursue business as usual for the next five years, the index will fall by 8 points."
To reverse the downward trend, Donohue called on Congress to pass a new six-year transportation spending bill, water resources bill and improvements to the aviation system.
Donohue also said the government should encourage the private sector to invest in infrastructure, with more than $180 billion in private money available.
"The bottom line is that we are missing a huge opportunity to ignite economic growth, improve our global competitiveness, and create jobs," Donohue said. "We have one definitive message to Congress and the administration right now: Get busy! Enhancing our transportation infrastructure should be a no-brainer. It works. Let's get on with it."
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