By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA 

The Business Roundtable says “the dismal fiscal position of the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is perhaps the most infamous example of Congress’ inability to provide an adequate and predictable source of funding for the nation’s transportation infrastructure systems.”

In a new report, the association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies adds, “Congress has failed to take the steps necessary to provide effective support and partnership for state and local governments seeking to invest in infrastructure upgrades.”

Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc. and chair of the Business Roundtable Infrastructure Initiative, said states and local communities are paying the price for Congress’ failure to pass a multi-year transportation authorization bill, as promised last summer. Caterpillar is an active member of ARTBA.

U.S. companies have spent another year managing around delays caused by aging and insufficient infrastructure,” Oberhelman said in a Sept. 17 press release for the report. “And U.S. workers have spent another year sitting in traffic, wasting precious time. All of this threatens our nation’s future growth and prosperity.”

In “Road to Growth: The Case for Investing in America’s Transportation Infrastructure” the Business Roundtable observes America’s world ranking for overall infrastructure quality has fallen from ninth place to 16th place in six years. Nearly one out four bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and $33 billion was added to the cost of U.S. products in 2010 due to lack of large ship facilities, lock delays, and port congestion.

The report cites studies concluding $1 of infrastructure investment could result in as much as $3 in economic activity, while increasing transportation investment the equivalent of 1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year could result in up to $320 billion in economic output. Increasing investment by just 0.6 percent would create 1.7 million jobs in the first three years.

Oberhelman says companies like Caterpillar do their best to manage what’s within our control.

“What we can’t control is the state of the public infrastructure supporting our people and our shipments,” he said. “That’s an investment only Congress can and must make before another year passes and the United States falls even further behind.”