GBC’s Donald Fry urges Congress to make infrastructure investment part of new stimulus package

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Investment in strengthening the nation’s infrastructure, particularly its transportation resources, should be a major element of any new congressional economic stimulus package, Greater Baltimore Committee president and CEO Donald C. Fry told members of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee on October 30.

Deteriorating roads, transit and port facilities in the nation and in Maryland can be attributed to two things — lack of revenue dedicated to transportation projects and “our failure to appropriately recognize infrastructure investment as a public policy priority essential to our economic growth,” Fry said during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill on potential elements of a new economic stimulus package that Congress is considering.

In Maryland, more than 90 transportation projects that would collectively cost between $40 and $60 billion to build do not have “a single dollar allocated for future construction,” Fry said.

Uncertainty over federal funding, along with lagging revenues to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, were cited by Maryland transportation officials in recently announcing $1.1 billion in capital budget cuts that, among other things, deferred funding for critical light rail and commuter rail projects, he said.

Fry said the GBC has formed a private-sector task force to study, evaluate and recommend alternative, inflation-sensitive revenue sources that would better meet expanding transportation demand.

Meanwhile, Fry urged Congress to develop, as part of any stimulus package, a national Infrastructure Investment Plan to invest in intercity high speed rail networks, seaport facilities and strengthening the nation’s electricity grid.

Other potential investments could include extending broadband to rural areas, repairing aging metropolitan water and sewer infrastructure, and retrofitting the nation’s energy systems making them more efficient, he said.

A national investment in infrastructure would significantly help construction workers, which have suffered due to the housing decline, Fry said. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a loss of more than 600,000 jobs in the construction sector in 2007-08.

Fry also suggested that an economic stimulus infusion of funds could also benefit small, minority-owned, and women owned businesses. Incentives could be considered “beyond the customary MBE/WBE requirements” to encourage equity partnerships between majority-owned and minority-owned construction firms in taking on infrastructure projects, he said.

Fry was on a panel of three Marylanders invited to testify before the joint committee. Other panelists were Harbor Bank President Joseph Haskins, Jr., a former GBC vice chairman, who spoke on banking issues, and Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative, who addressed health care issues.

Don Fry’s complete testimony

Video of testimony before the Joint Economic Committee

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