It's time to bring our roads and bridges into the 21st century

It's time to bring our roads and bridges into the 21st century
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One year ago, President Donald Trump gave his first address to Congress. He spoke of a new chapter for our country, a renewal of American prosperity and rising optimism.

Now, on the eve of his second address, there is no denying that manufacturers in America are as confident as ever: 94.6 percent feel positive about their companies’ outlook according to a recent National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) member survey.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE and congressional leaders can take credit for boosting our industry’s prospects and giving manufacturing workers the attention and action they deserve. In year one, they helped rev up the economy by delivering policies that help make America fiercely competitive in the global economy, such as regulatory and tax reform.

 

In year two, the best way to keep that momentum going is by focusing on more initiatives that take manufacturing in America to new heights. For our industry, a bipartisan infrastructure package is at the top of that list, and we believe the NAM’s infrastructure blueprint, “Building to Win,” offers the best path to get there.

Following the end of World War II, President Dwight Eisenhower launched one of the most ambitious infrastructure undertakings in world history. The resulting highway system helped bind our nation together and grow our economy outward.

The structures we built then were more than just steel and concrete. They represented the flesh and sinew of a dynamic free-market economy — one that has delivered more opportunity to more people than any other society in any other era of human history.

The infrastructure projects helped grow jobs, health-care access, housing and markets for America’s manufactured goods. We still rely on this infrastructure today.

On the one hand, that’s a true testament to the importance of the accomplishments of President Eisenhower’s generation. On the other, it’s a wake-up call that it’s long past time for our generation to do our part by investing in America’s transportation, water, energy and broadband infrastructure.

Today’s crumbling roads and unsound bridges, outdated ports and waterways, congested airports and water supply breakdowns betray our parents’ and grandparents’ hard work and shared commitment to build a country worthy of our founders’ loftiest ideals.

We simply must bring America’s aging infrastructure system into the 21st century. There’s no way around it. But here’s the good news: Democrats and Republicans appear to agree on that point. President Trump campaigned on and won the election, in part, on this promise, and he has kept the pressure on lawmakers to build the best infrastructure in the world. So why not finally do something about this important issue in 2018?

Already, the Trump administration has taken positive steps. For instance, it has used its executive authority to update and streamline the permitting process for infrastructure projects, which is helping to cut down on red tape and wait times.

Congress, too, has taken notable recent action on infrastructure legislation, such as the Water Resources Development Act in 2014 and 2016 and the five-year highway bill in 2015. Nearly every one of those efforts was overwhelmingly bipartisan. So, there is every reason to believe that Washington can, and most importantly should, get an infrastructure package done this year. 

“Building to Win” provides the guide to getting the job done. It’s a bold initiative from manufacturers that seeks not only to repair our roads, bridges, rails, airports, ports and waterways, but it also attempts to revolutionize the very infrastructure that makes our American Dream possible.

Given President Trump’s consistent focus on manufacturing workers in the United States, it’s the perfect basis for the administration to turn to as it finishes putting together its much-anticipated infrastructure proposal.

The Trump campaign and the White House have spoken favorably of “Building to Win” in the past, and it represents today an easy way for congressional leaders to see where an industry that unites America stands.

We look forward to hearing what President Trump will say in his second address to Congress Tuesday. Manufacturers, like many in our country, are riding a wave of renewed prosperity and optimism. That is directly tied to Washington taking historic action on issues like tax reform that once seemed intractable.

To keep the momentum going, the time is now to work together to pass a targeted, substantial investment in modernizing our nation’s infrastructure that includes a more reliable, user-based funding stream to keep building roads, bridges, transit systems and highways far into the future.

We can create more jobs, boost growth, save lives and help secure America’s mantle of economic leadership in the process. Manufacturers are all in to get infrastructure done, and we stand ready to do our part and build to win.

David Farr is the chairman and CEO of Emerson, which manufactures products and provides engineering services for a range of industrial, commercial and consumer markets. Emerson also serves as the current chairman of the board of directors of the National Association of Manufacturers.