Boosting Our Global Competitiveness: It’s Time to Invest in America’s Roads, Rails, and Bridges

When it comes to investing in our infrastructure, the President’s message has been loud and clear: We must upgrade our roads and rails and bridges to grow our economy and create good American jobs. Over the last five decades, U.S. investments in transportation have fallen by nearly 50 percent as a percentage of GDP. So it is not surprising that in the most recent World Economic Forum rankings, the U.S. has fallen from 7th to 18th overall in the quality of our roads in less than a decade.

Earlier this month, we released a report that shows our transportation infrastructure system is in dire need of investment. The data tells an important story: 65 percent of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition; one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic; and 45 percent of Americans lack access to transit.

We know what we need to do – and there are two compelling reasons for doing it right now. First, our global competiveness is directly linked to the strength of our infrastructure – investing in it can serve as a clear source of competitive advantage. Second, these investments will create jobs, help American businesses, and grow our economy. The President has put forth a long-term proposal that would make these investments and pay for them by closing unfair tax loopholes and making commonsense reforms to our business tax system. The President’s GROW AMERICA Act would support millions of jobs and position our economy for lasting growth. 

The President has also been pressing Congress to act to avoid a lapse in funding of the Highway Trust Fund, which will go insolvent as early as August, putting numerous active projects at risk. So we are encouraged by efforts in the Senate to pass a short-term transportation funding bill that will keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent, providing Congress time to pass a long-term reauthorization bill this year. Chairman Wyden and Senate Democrats have a viable approach to keep federal funds flowing during the height of the summer construction season and to keep Americans at work repairing our crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems.

As the President has said repeatedly, however, a short-term patch will only solve this problem for a few months. Congress should pass a long-term authorization bill that creates jobs and provides certainty for cities, states, and businesses. 

In the meantime, the President is doing whatever he can to promote American economic growth. And that's why the President recently announced a new executive action -- the Build America Investment Initiative -- that will help private-sector investors and state and local communities work together to structure deals and unlock more private investments in America’s infrastructure to grow our local economy and create jobs.

The President and his entire Administration are focused every day on what can be done to expand opportunity for every American. In today's economy, that means building a first-class infrastructure that attracts first-class jobs and takes American businesses' goods all across the world – and an important part of that is taking action on a long-term transportation bill.

Jeffrey Zients is Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.
Related Topics: Jobs, Economy