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Transportation Infrastructure

Supply Chain Infrastructure

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The Issue

President Trump is expected to ask Congress to approve $200 billion for transportation infrastructure improvements this year, and promised in his State of the Union address to leverage the federal funds into a massive $1.5 trillion campaign that would deliver “gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways across our land.”

Trump said most of the funding would come from partnerships with state and local governments and the private sector, and the total is up from the $1 trillion he proposed shortly after taking office last year. Details have yet to be released, but Trump said he wants to streamline the permitting and approval process for construction projects to a maximum of two years, with a one-year timeline where possible. An executive order expediting environmental reviews for high-priority infrastructure projects was signed last year.

Infrastructure has been a top priority for Trump Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who last year called the nation’s transportation system “the underpinning of our world-class economy” but said it has been “jeopardized” by aging infrastructure she pledged to “rebuild, refurbish and revitalize.”

Trump’s proposal comes at a time when U.S. transportation infrastructure has suffered from decades of underinvestment that has turned the system into a drag on the economy. Growing inefficiencies and bottlenecks increase costs and make it increasingly harder for American companies to expand their businesses. Ultimately, the lack of infrastructure investment is reducing U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. NRF believes Congress needs to improve and expand infrastructure, improve system efficiency to handle increasing freight needs, and provide long-term funding.

Why it Matters to Retailers

Retailers are among the nation’s largest shippers, moving hundreds of billions of dollars worth of merchandise via the nation’s ports, railroads and highways each year. The condition of the transportation system and its ability to move freight quickly and efficiently are vital to retailers’ businesses. Regulations impacting the movement of goods for security, safety and other matters also impact the ability of the nation’s retailers to get their goods to market.

NRF Advocates for Improved Supply Chain Infrastructure

With her background as a former deputy secretary of transportation, deputy administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration and chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission, NRF welcomed Chao as “perfectly suited” to head the Transportation Department. NRF urged her to “address ongoing issues of infrastructure funding while ensuring that our transportation systems are truly state-of-the-art and able to handle expected increases in freight flows.”

NRF has been a long-time advocate of improved infrastructure and the funding required to make improvements possible. NRF has particularly sought a national freight policy covering trucks, railroads and ships, which is included in the $300 billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, a five-year transportation funding measure that runs through the end of 2020. The measure was intended to make it easier to move forward on major projects that would ease transportation bottlenecks, and NRF praised it for bringing “long-term stability to our nation’s surface transportation programs.”