GUEST COLUMN: A Partnership We Can Build On

Feb 11, 2013

Photo: Paul Goguen via Bloomberg

Our transportation infrastructure – roads, rails, ports and airports – carries the life-blood of our economy. It helps us move goods, facilitate commerce and bring millions of international visitors to our country.

But these critical arteries are clogged, risking our health and viability as an economic leader.

By any measure, our infrastructure lags behind that of our economic competitors. Take for example our aviation infrastructure, which ranks only 30th in the world, behind the likes of Panama and Bahrain. Our highest globally ranked airport comes in at 24th. New York’s three airports – where I proudly live and do business – are all ranked among the world’s worst.

The implications for the travel industry are dire. Given a choice between a travel experience featuring flight cancelations, delays on the tarmac, traffic congestion to and from the airport –or an experience featuring seamless connections and gleaming facilities – which one would you prefer? Should we be surprised if international travelers visit another country instead of the U.S.?

The world is in the midst of a global travel boom led by the ballooning middle classes of China, Brazil and India. More people than ever can now afford to visit our country, and spend their money at our airports, shops, and restaurants. Tens of millions of Americans benefit from these visitors every day, but unless we act now to overhaul our aging infrastructure, we will miss out on the windfall of jobs and tax revenues that increased travel creates.

Of course, massive government investments in infrastructure during a time of budget cuts and sequestration sounds like pie in the sky. Fortunately, the government doesn’t have to pay the full tab on these improvements. Private capital is ready to invest in public infrastructure projects, and there is a way to use that money effectively – through public-private partnerships.

Public-private partnerships are a proven and efficient means toward the end we all seek. They harness the benefits that both sides bring to the table. They can also produce greater accountability and transparency, accelerate the completion of projects and save taxpayers money.

Most importantly, they’ll clear those clogged arteries, and help our nation’s economy continue to recover and grow.

Jonathan M. Tisch is Co-Chairman of the Board, Loews Corporation, and Chairman, Loews Hotels. He'll be speaking at the Let's Rebuild America Transportation and Infrastructure Summit on February 13. 

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