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  February 3rd, 2017 | Written by

Groups Encouraged By Senate Dems’ Infrastructure Plan

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  • AAPA: Freight connections to US ports falling behind.
  • Infrastructure investments could create 15 million jobs.
  • ITIF: Goal should be to lay the foundations for a world-class economy in the digital age.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said it is encouraged by the release this week of a $1-trillion infrastructure investment plan by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senate Democrats, especially the recognition that ports and waterways play a vital role in our nation’s economy, jobs and supply chain.

Other groups hail the economic growth and jobs creating potential of the package while others want more emphasis on the buildout of digital infrastructre and not just the pouring of conrete.

AAPA has sent its freight transportation infrastructure policy and funding recommendations to the Trump administration and Congressional leadership. Among its recommendations are ways to eliminate bottlenecks and expand capacity through landside investments, modernize and fully maintain federal navigation channels through waterside investments, secure America’s ports and borders, enhance the coastal environment and build resilience.

“Coupled with President Trump’s stated intention to make major improvements in America’s infrastructure, we’re optimistic that long overdue infrastructure investments will be made,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and CEO. “AAPA looks forward to working with Congress and the Trump Administration as they develop a comprehensive infrastructure package that will meet the needs of our country, our growing freight network, and enhance our international competitiveness.”

The BlueGreen Alliance, a coaltion of labor unions and environmental groups said the Schumer’s plan could create 15 million jobs.

““The American Society of Engineers estimated that an additional $1.6 trillion is needed to bring our nation’s infrastructure to a good state of repair,” said Executive Director Kim Glas, “and we know that these investments in our water, energy, transportation, natural gas distribution infrastructure, and schools will create millions of good jobs.”

A BlueGreen Alliance report released in 2014 estimated that 2.7 million jobs could be created across the economy by bringing the nation’s infrastructure from a grade of D+ to a B.

But the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) cautioned that, while investing in infrastructure can spur long-term economic growth, “it has to be about more than just pouring new concrete.” “The real opportunity is to also install chips, sensors, and other information technologies that will make US infrastructure systems safer, more efficient, and more adaptable,” said ITIF president Robert D. Atkinson. “If a major infrastructure initiative is cobbled together mainly with an eye toward creating a few years’ worth of construction jobs, it will represent a huge missed opportunity. The goal should be to lay the necessary foundations for a truly world-class economy in the digital age.”

Brick-and-mortar infrastructure should be combined with information technology to upgrade roads and bridges to help prevent accidents and speed the flow of traffic. “From transportation to the energy grid,” said Atkinson, “we can add capacity and improve reliability while lowering costs.”

None of the groups addressed how the infrastrucure plan should be financed and that is where the political fight will come. Democrats want to fund the projects with government spending while the infrastructure plan put forward by President Donald Trump plans on using equity participation and tax credits.