Industry officials were cautiously optimistic following President Obama’s State of the Union address last week, with many calling the effort to renew focus on infrastructure investments crucial to broad economic growth.
Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, says that “in an era of fly specking the federal budget, the president was right to distinguish between wasteful government spending and necessary infrastructure investments.”
Investing in infrastructure now doesn’t just boost the private sector, it protects the taxpayers, says Sandherr. “That is because maintaining roads, bridges and water systems now, especially in today’s extremely competitive construction market, is a lot less expensive than repairing broken infrastructure later.
“Congressional leaders can further protect taxpayers by enacting needed reforms that ensure public funds are invested in a manner that is accountable and effective. It doesn’t take an earmark to keep our traffic flowing and our bridges safe.”
Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, says LIUNA is “thrilled to see President Obama embrace an argument we have been making for years: Building America’s roads, bridges, rails and runways is not only our best option for getting people working again, but also is essential to America’s long-term future. If we do not address our ailing basics and outbuild other nations, we cannot compete economically.”
O’Sullivan adds that the economy cannot truly move forward as long as more than one in five construction workers are unemployed. “We cannot leave these men and women, and their families, behind and expect to propser,” he says.
Bruce D’Agostino, president and CEO of the Construction Management Association of America, says his organization welcomes the president’s “emphasis on rebuilding and enhancing our national infrastructure, and his recognition of the critical linkage between infrastructure and prosperity.
“We were pleased to hear him give infrastructure investment the same weight as education, research and development, and fiscal reform in charting the nation's future.”
D’Agostino says that the critical distinction drawn by the president was between government spending and investment in value-enhancing assets such as highways, rail, energy and communications infrastructure.
“Much work needs to be done to convince both the Congress and the public of this difference so that we can move forward with critical investments that enhance our competitiveness and productivity.”
He says the Congress and the industry needs to work together to “translate commitment into concrete action. This action must take such forms as a new long-term transportation strategy so that our states and localities can plan their own investments soundly. In addition, CMAA continues to support creation of a National Infrastructure Development Bank.
And Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, says he was in agreement with the president’s commitment to high-speed rail in the U.S., but that the private sector needs to see a strong signal that the federal government is committed to the development of high-speed rail before it will invest significantly.
“President Obama’s pledge to redouble infrastructure investment is the exact sign the private sector needs to have confidence that the United States is in for the long haul of developing high-speed rail here,” he says. “Californians are already doing their part to invest in and develop a fast, clean and low-cost transportation system here, and we are happy to have the partnership of our federal government and congressional delegation. California is well on its way to beginning construction of our high-speed train system next year – to creating jobs in the near term and continued economic strength in the long term.”