This interview is part of Infrastructure Week 2014.
Infrastructure Week is a week of talks, round-table events, and Q & A sessions to focus on infrastructure and explore new approaches being developed nationwide to modernize aging infrastructure. The event was created in 2013 by Brookings Institution, Building America’s Future Educational Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, 1776, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Organization for International Investment, and the Value of Water Coalition. Click here to see the full calendar of events.
Janet F. Kavinoky is a nationally recognized expert in transportation policy, funding, and finance. As executive director in the Chamber’s Congressional and Public Affairs Division, Kavinoky leads all transportation strategy, policy, and lobbying efforts. She has expertise in developing consensus policy positions among diverse stakeholders and lobbying Congress and executive branch agencies on a wide range of legislative and regulatory matters relating to surface, air, and water transportation.
Kavinoky is vice president of the Chamber-led Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition, a nationwide effort by business, labor, transportation organizations, and concerned citizens to advocate for improved and increased federal investment in the nation’s aging and overburdened transportation system.
In addition, Kavinoky developed and leads the Chamber’s Let’s Rebuild America (LRA) initiative to raise the profile of infrastructure issues, broaden stakeholder engagement, and create new opportunities for businesses to influence public policy. As part of LRA, Kavinoky guided a multidisciplinary team to develop and regularly update the groundbreaking Transportation Performance Index. The Index assesses the degree to which surface, air, and water transportation systems are meeting business and economic demands and correlates improvement and decline with economic indicators.
We Want it All, But We Don’t Want to Pay
…Fundamentally dealing with our infrastructure problems involves finding money, and it’s not just in infrastructure that people want everything but don’t want to pay for it. We’re hearing it in healthcare; we’re hearing it in education…We’ve got to come face to face with what exactly are the problems we’re trying to solve, and then realize we’re going to have to put out some cash for that.
Fixing Infra: Where Do We Start?
…There’s an issue of public trust and confidence in the institutions who are trying to solve these problems and their ability to actually fix them. And that’s why we need to look at infrastructure going forward, in the same way, I think, that an entrepreneur does when they’re pitching a business plan to an investor.
Passenger Rail is Starving in the U.S.
I think that one of the reasons we have not seen high-speed rail in this country is that to do a real program of high-speed rail it’s going to take a significant and long-term commitment by both the public and the private partners in that event…It’s pretty hard to say we’re going to see a real impact…when there’s nobody making that long-term commitment to it.
Is There an Alternative to the Gas Tax?
…At one point we’re going to have to transition to another, more sustainable source of revenue. But, for the foreseeable future, the Chamber still believes that the gas tax is still the simplest, most straightforward way to provide federal resources to states for highways and a portion of surface transportation.