On January 18, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted business leaders, policymakers, association presidents, investors and workforce leaders for the “America’s Infrastructure Summit: Time to Modernize.” In conjunction with the Summit, the U.S. Chamber released a set of recommendations for policymakers to consider as they begin developing a comprehensive infrastructure package. These recommendations included the endorsement of a 25-cent increase to the federal fuel user fee, a step ASCE has long advocated for. Additionally, the U.S. Chamber recommended a multi-faceted approach to infrastructure investment that leverages greater public and private resources and makes use of public-private partnerships. President and CEO Tom Donohue rounded out the U.S. Chamber’s list of recommendations by advising Congress further to streamline the permitting process and expand the workforce by promoting work-based learning and retain skilled immigrants, including from programs like DACA and TPS.
Donohue’s optimism that infrastructure can be addressed in a meaningful way this year was followed up with a discussion on the role of the private sector in future infrastructure decisions. Glenn Youngkin, Co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, told the audience that he describes U.S. infrastructure to potential investors as “an emerging market.” He emphasized that drafters of an infrastructure bill should not try to “boil the ocean,” but instead should look at doable fixes to existing programs and policy that can go a long way towards enabling public-private partnerships and streamlining the permitting process.
Kristina Swallow P.E., ENV SP, F.ASCE, ASCE 2018 President, spoke alongside John Schroer, AASHTO President and Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The two participated in a one-on-one discussion on permitting reform. Kristina spoke to her experiences as an engineer with the City of Las Vegas, navigating the challenges associated with securing approval for small and large projects. She also emphasized that in many cases, the lack of available funding is as significant of a source of project delay as permitting.
Other Summit speakers included Jennifer Aumet, President, North America at Transurban, Terry O’Sullivan, General President, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, Mike Ducker, President of FedEx Freight, Mark Stodola, Mayor of City of Little Rock, and many others. The afternoon agenda was focused on the broader view of infrastructure, including airports, ports, short line and regional railroad associations, and natural gas and pipeline infrastructure. A webcast of the Summit is available here.