Smart infrastructure investment as a way to maintain the nation's economic competitiveness, help create jobs, increase safety and enhance quality of life, was the focus of a policy forum held Wednesday in Charleston, S.C.
The forum, Building America's Future's Educational Fund, was in partnership with Charleston Mayor Joe Riley's office, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Associated General Contractors of America.
"It's been proven time after time: Investments in our national infrastructure create jobs and opportunities," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "Americans can and must build great things - not just in spite of enormous economic challenges but also as the means of overcoming them.
With America's transportation infrastructure systems — roads, bridges, rail and transit —aging and becoming increasingly unsafe, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that a $2.2 trillion investment is needed over the next five years just to get America's entire current infrastructure into "good condition" — an increase of 38 percent from five years ago.
The policy forum's panel discussions focused on local transportation challenges, as well as the best methods and financing options to repair and modernize the region's infrastructure.
"If done right, investments in transportation infrastructure can spur economic growth," said Janet Kavinoky, Director of Transportation Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "A one-point increase in transportation effectiveness, as measured by the U.S. Chamber's Transportation Performance Index, will increase our nation's GDP by 0.3 percent — or $42 billion. But if we pursue business as usual, we will suffer nearly $336 billion in lost economic growth by 2015. America isn't keeping up with our competitors, and our failure to do so is putting our economy at a competitive disadvantage."