A Foundation for Jobs & Growth

Tackling America's surface transportation challenges

By John F. Fish, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Suffolk Construction Company, Inc.

May 19, 2017

A modern, robust and well-maintained surface transportation network — including roads and bridges, public transit and rail systems — is the foundation of our nation’s strength and prosperity, not to mention an invaluable engine of the American workforce. The construction industry builds America’s surface transportation infrastructure but also depends on these systems to deliver the materials and equipment necessary to build hospitals, schools, residential, airports, hotels and transportation hubs.

At Suffolk, we relish tackling big challenges with creative solutions. For example, we are currently completing work on the All Aboard Florida Miami Terminal. The multidimensional project, which will be the southernmost stop for express passenger rail service from Orlando to Miami, consists of an elevated train station, a large parking facility, 178,000 square feet of retail space and three towers — two residential and one commercial. Complex projects like this require vision, hard work and creative thinking. They also require efficient delivery of building materials and supplies, which is why America’s highway and rail systems, which expand supply chains and link commercial hubs with sources of demand, are so critical to the success of our business and the nation’s economy as a whole.

More than 40 percent of all inter-city freight transport in our nation is carried by rail, and the roughly 164,000 miles of roads and bridges in our national highways system are vital arteries for American businesses, including builders. But, as we mark Infrastructure Week 2017, growing demand and wear-and-tear on aging systems are taking their toll. America’s freeways are increasingly congested, and one out of every five bridges in the national highway system is either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Higher volumes of freight shipments are driving up demand for rail capacity, creating choke points that could impede the delivery of vital supplies and slow public transportation systems.

To help policymakers tackle these growing challenges, Business Roundtable released a plan for action, Back in Business: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Infrastructure. Included in the blueprint are recommendations for boosting the depleted Highway Trust Fund by transitioning to a mileage-based user fee, as well as increasing the federal gasoline tax and indexing it to inflation or the construction index.

We also recommend maintaining a balanced regulatory approach toward railroad rate-setting to facilitate the investments necessary to keep pace with growing demand for freight transportation. We further call for developing transparent, standardized criteria to prioritize projects whose impacts are most directly aligned with a national or regional economic need or growth strategy.

At Suffolk, our brand promise is to “Build Smart.” By adopting these smart approaches toward infrastructure, policymakers can put our nation back on the fast track to economic growth.