The U.S. must make a renewed and aggressive national commitment to modernize its infrastructure in order to keep its leading position in the global economy, Michael Ward, CSX Corporation's chairman, president and chief executive officer said as part of a panel discussion on "Investing in Global Infrastructure" at the Milken Institute Global Conference.
"The quality of America's infrastructure has long been one of the key reasons for its stunning success in the global marketplace," said Ward. "Other nations are making serious forward-looking investments. The U.S. needs to do the same and do a better job of maintaining the strong, but aging systems we already have in place."
The nation's investor owned and privately financed railroads have invested more than $440 billion back into their infrastructures since 1980, said Ward. Since that time, freight traffic has nearly doubled, and railroads today offer competitive advantages and solve real, pressing problems as a result of their fuel efficiency, low emissions and ability to relieve highway congestion.
Thirty years ago, the nation's freight railroads were "literally falling apart," Ward said. But in 1980 Congress made a major infrastructure decision that solved the problem with balanced regulations and a belief in the power of private capital.
While Ward noted that the freight rail model is not applicable to all infrastructure challenges facing the nation, he said the U.S. should consider what role private capital can play, identify places where public and private funds can work together to provide real, tangible benefits to the public, and encourage regulations that both empower and hold accountable businesses that own and operate infrastructure.
The Milken Institute Global Conference brings together scientists, business executives, philanthropists, journalists, Nobel laureates and other dignitaries to discuss, debate and deliberate on today's most pressing social, political and economic challenges.