Ahead of Monday’s expected announcement of the Trump administration infrastructure plan, the U.S. Travel Association has released four guiding principles and a set of public policy recommendations for reforming America’s transportation infrastructure and fueling economic growth through travel.
“America was once the global leader of transportation and infrastructure innovation, from the development of the Interstate Highway System to the first commercial flight,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Modern, efficient travel infrastructure—including our roads, rails, highways, and airports—improves quality of life, the economy and national security. Outdated, inefficient and deteriorating infrastructure is a drag on our economy and way of life, and that’s what U.S. travelers have dealt with over several decades.”
Demand for travel to and within the U.S.—already a $2.3 trillion industry that supports 15.3 million American jobs—is growing, with corresponding potential to fuel an expansion of the U.S. economy and jobs base. However, chronic underinvestment in travel infrastructure has left the system woefully underequipped to meet that rising demand, putting at risk the tremendous economic benefits that would follow the full realization of that burgeoning travel demand.
U.S. Travel will work to ensure that priorities aimed at supporting travel are a central component of the coming discussion on national infrastructure fixes.
The priorities document identifies key, decades-long problems slowing down America’s ability to meet current and future travel demand, including growing highway congestion, inadequate airport infrastructure, outdated federal discretionary and formula funding structures, lack of connectivity, and mobility gaps.
U.S. Travel outlines the following four strategic principles to guide federal infrastructure policies and investments:
• Prioritize investments that enhance commercial and personal mobility throughout the United States;
• Ensure formula funding accounts for highly-trafficked destinations and commercial centers;
• Strengthen federal investment and encourage innovative funding partnerships; and
• Embrace new and transformative transportation technologies.
The document also includes specific policy recommendations for meeting these principles. They include:
• Providing specific consideration for projects that achieve the goals of the National Travel Infrastructure Strategy in the award of discretionary grants;
• Accounting for national and regional traveler data in the development of formula factors—not just census data, which does not take into account areas of the U.S. that receive large amounts of commercial and personal travel;
• Restoring local control over airport infrastructure user fees to help modernize the outdated U.S. air travel system; and
• Expanding the use and eligibility of federal low-interest loans and Private Activity Bonds, incentivizing non-federal investment in travel infrastructure, and establishing other innovative financing mechanisms, such as a National Infrastructure Bank, to fund improvements.
Said Dow: “It’s time for the U.S. to think big again when it comes to transportation. We applaud President Trump for making significant upgrades in the nation’s infrastructure a top policy objective, providing an unprecedented opportunity to make meaningful improvements to how people travel to and within our country. We hope the administration and Congress will draw guidance from these principles as a means to capture the maximum economic benefit from efforts to fix our country’s infrastructure.”