Last week, I met with business leaders in Minneapolis to talk about the transportation future of their city, and they overwhelmingly had one topic on their mind: the passage of a long-term national transportation bill.
The men and women I spoke with were a mix of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, but they all agreed that Congress's inability to pass a national transportation plan is not good for business. It's not good for jobs; it's not good for economic development; it's not good for America.
Not one person in the meeting pointed a finger at the party across the aisle; no one was interested in assigning blame for the lack of a long-term transportation bill. Instead, they asked one question: How do we break this logjam?
I wish I knew.
This is a critical time for transportation. To a person, everyone in Congress says our priority must be jobs. Well, according to the business leaders I met with in Minneapolis, these extensions are not creating jobs; they are holding back job creation.
We are right at the beginning of the construction season, and the fact that states cannot plan ahead beyond the next 74 days means that thousands of workers cannot get to work on the big projects America needs.
And--if our discussion in Minneapolis is any indication--America needs transportation projects.
An economy can't go anywhere without the transportation network to carry it. And the longer we avoid dealing with that network--the longer we keep patching things up--the longer it will take for us to increase the safety and efficiency of how we move people and goods in this country.
For example, one of the folks I talked with in Minneapolis is concerned about how to move more than 10,000 employees into and out of the city's downtown business core each day. How can he plan his company's future without being able to predict how they will get people to work?
Another business leader was concerned about already planned transportation projects. "We can't get local commitment," he said, "because there's no reason for the community to believe federal support will come through even though our residents are paying into the highway trust fund with their gas taxes."
To plan wisely, businesses need certainty. Forecasting is difficult enough; we can't afford to complicate it with politics. As the business leaders I met with in Minneapolis said, "90 days is not a plan."