The U.S. Chamber has long sounded the alarm about our nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. We’ve cited the economic costs of congestion, the lives needlessly lost and the negative impact on our global competitiveness. We’ve called attention to the gap between what’s needed to fund a modern system and what we’re actually investing. And we’ve emphasized the hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs that could be created if we modernized our highways, transit systems, airports, seaports, waterways and rails.

Tom Donohue

Tom Donohue

But no one has ever made a direct link between the performance of our transportation infrastructure and economic growth — until now.

The U.S. Chamber’s newly released Transportation Performance Index proves for the first time ever a direct relationship between transportation infrastructure performance and GDP.

Why is this important? Because without stronger economic growth, we will not create the 20 million jobs we need by the end of this decade. Likewise, without adequate transportation systems, we will fall behind our global competitors who are racing ahead.

If we embrace the status quo and fail to make needed investments, the future will be grim. If we don’t change course, the index projects that over the next five years, the economy could forgo as much as $336 billion in lost growth as transportation networks continue to deteriorate.

Fortunately, there is another path. By making the necessary investments and implementing needed reforms, we can transform our transportation networks, making it far easier for people and goods to move quickly and safely across the country and around the world.

So how do we move forward on rebuilding America?

First, we need Congress and the Obama administration to pass pending legislation to fund highway and transit, water and aviation systems while supporting investment in freight railroads. Without the necessary investments, these systems will further deteriorate, threatening our mobility and our safety.

Second, policymakers must eliminate the red tape that endlessly delays and raises project costs. Let’s streamline the project review and approval processes to ensure that improvements to the transportation system are finished in a timely and environmentally sound manner.

Finally, we must look to the private sector to help finance infrastructure projects. There is upward of $180 billion in private capital just waiting to be invested if only we swept away regulatory roadblocks.

A renewed commitment to a strong infrastructure network would bolster economic growth, create jobs and improve our global competitiveness. It’s time to get on with it.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.