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President Donald Trump used his address to Congress last night to tie the collapse of transportation infrastructure in the U.S. to other national problems like crime, violence, and drug use.
“We tended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open for anyone to cross and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate,” said Trump. “Infrastructure has so badly crumbled… Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways, gleaming across our very beautiful land. Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately stop, and our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.”
Trump compared his vision for the country to that of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who helped build the interstate highway system during his presidency, and said it is time for a “new program of national rebuilding.”
“America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East,” said Trump. “All the while, our infrastructure at home has crumbled. With $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice, and maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.
“To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States, financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of new jobs.”
While Trump had used the $1 trillion figure during his campaign, there has yet to be any clear guidance from his administration on what a transportation spending bill would actually entail. His speech was delivered amid reports that the White House is gearing up to institute another travel ban similar to the one which was stayed in February.
The travel industry at large reacted positively to Trump’s speech, with many noting the difficulty of pushing such a large spending bill through Congress.
“The U.S. travel community looks forward to seeing the details of the president’s revised plan to ensure proper vetting of visa applicants—a worthy objective to be sure,” said U.S. Travel president Roger Dow. “We trust that it will be precisely worded in order to avoid the confusion sown by his initial order among prospective travelers to the U.S. We also encourage the president to embrace language making it clear once again that legitimate, thoroughly screened visitors are valued and welcomed by our country. With travel as our number three export and a top 10 employer in 49 states and the District of Columbia, our economy can ill afford unintended consequences of policies that are interpreted by some as a red light to travelers generally, not just those who pose a security risk.
“We continue to be encouraged by the president’s oft-repeated commitment to our transportation infrastructure, particularly our airports that are so economically crucial yet falling behind due to lack of investment. The trillion-dollar figure he attaches to his infrastructure vision clearly faces some political hurdles; for that reason we encourage the president to kick-start his wider agenda by raising the cap on existing airport user fees, an approach that already has broad support across the political spectrum and achieves his aim of financing projects through both public and private capital.”
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) also voiced its support for both infrastructure investment and an improvement of transportation security.
“The importance of Infrastructure improvement for our country is something that both sides of the aisle can agree on,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO. “For the future of business travel, it is paramount that the President and Congress work together on responsible investment in transportation infrastructure to ensure that money is spent wisely and that these investments made safeguard the safe and expedient travel and freedom of movement of all travelers.”
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released a similar statement.
“As an industry that supports 8 million jobs, contributes nearly $600 billion to the U.S. economy each year, and generates $170 billion in local, state and federal taxes, we look forward to continuing to be an economic driver and job creator with pathways to long-term career opportunities to strengthen communities across the country,” said AHLA president and CEO Katherine Lugar. “… When it comes to changes to our nation’s immigration laws, as an industry, we have long been committed to comprehensive reform which addresses the need to fill growing demand for a diverse workforce while also addressing important national security interests. While we recognize the need for robust national security, any action must have a balanced approach to both promote hospitality and travel to the United States for those who wish to come – both as employees and as guests – while also ensuring the safety of our citizens here at home. We will continue to engage with the Administration, Congress and our partners in the broader U.S. travel industry to develop policies that both welcome and protect our guests, employees and our country.”