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Providence Journal: Smart investment in R.I. jobs

December 12, 2017

By Iftikhar Ahmad and Ed Rendell

While there has been a lot of talk in Washington and around the country about needing to invest in our nation’s failing infrastructure, few tangible steps have been taken so far to actually make infrastructure investment a national priority.

And even though air passenger traffic across the United States is growing by leaps and bounds, too many passengers continue to face cramped and outdated facilities and the need for more air service options. As a result, local communities all too often have been shortchanged on important economic opportunities that come with a vibrant airport.

That is why we are so pleased that Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, has helped produce the first transportation funding proposal that puts real action behind the rhetoric by providing America’s airports with sustainable funding streams to upgrade their facilities, attract new air service, and improve the passenger experience.

Airports across the country have identified $100 billion in infrastructure improvements they need to make over the next five years, and they would benefit greatly from having the ability to generate more local revenue for runways, taxiways, terminals, gates, and other projects to meet the needs of today and the challenges of tomorrow. In Providence that means making upgrades to our airfield, terminal, landside improvement, and building more garages that are critically important to keeping up with needs of our state and community.

Senator Reed rightly understands that infrastructure investments lead directly to economic benefits for communities throughout Rhode Island. The state’s airports support more than 30,500 jobs and have a total economic output of $2.6 billion per year. With over $225 million in infrastructure needs over the next five years, work at our airports has the potential to create nearly 5,000 jobs and millions more in economic output.

With so many politically divisive issues plaguing the country, it is refreshing to see Senator Reed lead a bipartisan effort to modernize America’s aging infrastructure. Congress now needs to take the next step and give final approval to these essential infrastructure improvements. American travelers deserve updated facilities, lower airfares, shorter security lines, and more airline competition. Let’s get to work.

Iftikhar Ahmad is president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. Ed Rendell is a former Pennsylvania governor and current co-chair of Building America’s Future.