Presidential Candidates Will Talk Infrastructure at Forum

Democratic candidates at debate
Democratic presidential candidates, shown at the Nov. 20 debate, include Cory Booker (from left) Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. (John Bazemore/AP)

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A group of transportation and manufacturing associations will host a forum for presidential candidates to discuss infrastructure issues.

The Moving America Forward forum, convened by United for Infrastructure, will be held in Las Vegas over Presidents Day weekend, which is Feb. 15-17. United for Infrastructure is a nonpartisan institution that focuses on educating the public and policymakers on infrastructure issues. The group organizes Infrastructure Week every year.

The host committee for the forum includes members of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Transportation Workers Union, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Public Transportation Association, the Value of Water Campaign and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

“For too long, serious infrastructure policy has been left on the back burner of many candidates’ agendas,” Association of Equipment Manufacturers President Dennis Slater said. “This forum will give candidates the opportunity to share what they think is needed to address our nation’s infrastructure opportunities with American voters at a critical time in the election year. We need their best ideas to help drive America toward a more modernized infrastructure that will benefit equipment manufacturers and our 1.3 million men and women, U.S. farmers and the broader national economy.”

Discussion of infrastructure largely has been absent from the presidential debates. The sixth and final debate is scheduled for Dec. 19 at UCLA.

The nation earned a D+ on ASCE’s infrastructure report card, issued in 2017. The group estimates that America faces a $2 trillion funding gap for infrastructure needs. ASCE has determined that, from 2016 to 2025, each household will lose $3,400 each year in disposable income due to infrastructure deficiencies.

Despite pleas for bipartisanship from lawmakers and trade association leaders during Infrastructure Week in mid-May, any prospect of a federal infrastructure package seems to have vanished, at least for 2019. Talks between President Donald Trump and congressional leaders dissolved. Many lawmakers have shifted their attention to the upcoming presidential election, rather than the Highway Trust Fund expiration date, which precedes it by just a few weeks.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden recently released an infrastructure plan that calls for $1.3 trillion in investment over 10 years. Biden plans to spend $50 billion over the first year of his presidency to repair roads, highways and bridges. Another component of Biden’s plan is the research and adoption of energy-efficient vehicles.

Biden is among the first of the Democratic contenders to release a comprehensive plan for infrastructure investment. In late March, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) released a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that included $650 billion in federal funding. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has stated that infrastructure is vital to a green economy. In 2015, he introduced the Rebuild America Act, which called for $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over five years. In 2017, Sanders joined Senate Democrats in supporting the Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure plan.

The general election will be held Nov. 3, 2020.

“We look forward to having the candidates address how America will rebuild and expand our infrastructure and hearing their vision for improving and increasing public transportation under their administration,” American Public Transportation Association President Paul Skoutelas said.

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