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Chamber Releases Transportation Indexes


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released the first-ever nationwide and state-by-state Transportation Performance Indexes, which show a significant decline over the last five years in America’s transportation infrastructure

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released the first-ever nationwide and state-by-state Transportation Performance Indexes, which show a significant decline over the last five years in Americaís transportation infrastructure. The annual index will look over time at how U.S. transportation infrastructure is serving the needs of the U.S. economy and business community.

ìThe performance of the nationís transportation system is not keeping pace with the rate of growth of the demands on that system,î said Thomas J. Donohue, the chamber's president and CEO. ìAs our economy recovers, the nationís transportation infrastructure must be prepared to meet projected growth in freight and population. In fact, a 10-point improvement in the new national transportation index could generate 3% more growth in the nation's Gross Domestic Product. However, our index shows that from now through 2015 there will be a rapid decline in the performance of the system if we continue business as usual. Right now weíre on an unsustainable path.î

The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association praised the chamber's efforts. "The analysis uses publicly available data to provide decision-makers demonstrable evidence that transportation performance links directly to the economy," says NSSGA First Vice Chairman Dave Thomey, who is executive vice president for Maryland Materials, Inc. "The index shows how important transportation is to maintaining a strong economy, which is information Congress, governors and the administration need, since reauthorization of the multi-year surface transportation act is so long overdue. The index shows how transportation repair and modernization is essential to boost U. S. competiveness over the long term."

NSSGA Treasurer and Reauthorization Task Force Vice Chairman Anne Lloyd, who is EVP/CFO of Martin Marietta Materials, was an industry financial resource to the SAFETEA-LU-created Policy and Revenue Commission charged with suggesting resources for 21st century infrastructure. "The overall physical conditions and performance of our nation's highways have badly deteriorated because of inadequate investment," Lloyd says. "We have long known the documented need for, and now can provide documented benefits of, improvement to our transportation systems to boost safety and efficient performance. The Transportation Performance Index shows broader performance correlation to GDP growth, in addition to that provided by total spending on construction and operations."

The index combines indicators of supply (availability), quality of service (reliability, predictability, safety) and utilization (potential for future growth) across all modes of passenger and freight transportation--highway, public transportation, freight railroad, aviation, marine and intermodal--to show how well the U.S. transportation system is serving the needs of businesses and the overall U.S. economy.

The national index is 51.24 in 2008, which is a slight improvement from 50.74 in 2007. However, the moving average, which smoothes annual variations, reveals a clear downward trend from 2003 to 2008, demonstrating that the performance of the U.S. transportation system is not keeping pace with the demands on that system. Todayís release covers the period from 1990 to 2008, the last year for which national-level date is available. Over this period, the index increased only about 6% while the population during that time grew 22%, passenger travel grew 39%, and freight traffic grew 27%.

ìThe bottom line is this: our nationís deteriorating infrastructure is placing a major drag on our economic growth,î Donohue says. ìWe must focus on improving the way transportation delivers for business, removing barriers to maintaining, modernizing and expanding our nationís transportation infrastructure, and driving increased public and private investment.î

The 2007 state results range from 85.12 for North Dakota to 35.08 for the District of Columbia. While the District of Columbia is somewhat of an anomaly, New Jersey has the next lowest index with a value of 46.71.

Higher population growth rates and higher population densities are generally associated with lower index value based on an analysis of state results versus population data. While this warrants more rigorous analysis, a closer examination of the states with an index value of less than 60 reveals that these states experience significant pressure in terms of population growth, high levels of development, and limited access to or aging infrastructure.

A highly ranked state like North Dakota cannot afford to ignore the importance of pressures on the transportation system in states like New Jersey. For example, to double exports by 2015, the nationís transportation system as a whole must work efficiently to get products to the worldís markets.

ìThe gap between the national index and the best-performing states is 20 points wide,î Donohue says. ìWeíre leaving $1 trillion on the table in GDP by not getting the most bang for the buck out of our transportation system. If we donít head off that decline, weíre taking money out of every Americanís pocket.î