Infrastructure spending will fix our supply-chain problems and ease inflation

Improving our ports, highways, airports, and rail lines will ease the flow of products to their destinations and reduce rising prices. We must prioritize the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act projects that have the greatest near-term impact.

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Bargain-shoppers at a store in Los Angeles.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Inflation is not something that Americans have had to worry about for decades. Now, however, it’s on the mind of every person who fills up their gas tank or shops for groceries. 

Similarly, few of us gave much thought to the supply chain. But many of us have become more acquainted with the concept as our internet orders and appliance purchases are delayed due to transportation bottlenecks.

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With “inflation” and “supply chain” entering our daily lexicon, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act couldn’t come at a better time. Passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden last year, the bill’s provisions include long-needed upgrades in the way Americans receive the goods they order. Improving our ports, highways, airports, and rail lines will ease the flow of those products to their destinations and reduce the rise in prices we’ve witnessed in stores and service stations across the land.

Here are just a few examples of how the infrastructure bill will help strengthen our national supply chain and combat inflation:

Ports: We’ve all seen news of ships and containers backed up at our nation’s ports as average transpacific shipping rates for containers exceeded $11,000 in September, more than eight times the cost of transpacific shipping before the pandemic. Meanwhile, the number of containers stuck at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach for more than five days has more than doubled since May 2020, helping to drive the highest shipping prices in more than 30 years.

The infrastructure bill will invest $17 billion in port infrastructure and waterways to modernize operations and expand capacity at ports across the nation, including deepening harbors to accommodate larger ships, replacing aging equipment, undertaking long-term expansion projects, and updating data and tracking systems. 

Rail: The Chicago region is a major hub of our nation’s freight rail system. The rail system has been overwhelmed by an unprecedented glut of freight. These delays cost consumers money, further contributing to rising prices. The infrastructure bill provides $34 billion to improve intermodal rail facilities, fund track rehabilitation, repair or replace aging bridges, and replace track crossings with overpasses, among numerous other projects. These investments will increase our rail system’s overall capacity as well as its efficiency to eliminate cost-increasing bottlenecks. 

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Airports: O’Hare International Airport is already one of the world’s busiest airports, and while expansion and modernization efforts continue along with the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access Project, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act invests an additional $616 million in our state’s airports. These funds will contribute to upgrades to O’Hare, freight operations in Rockford, and help in completing new projects to strengthen Illinois’ economy.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make many long-term improvements to our nation’s transportation system. But addressing our immediate supply-chain challenges, and the spiraling inflation that’s resulted, cannot wait. We must prioritize those projects that have the greatest near-term impact on shipping costs and supply chain delays, thereby lowering prices for consumers, families, and businesses. 

That’s why I wrote to the secretaries of commerce and transportation requesting information regarding how this crucial legislation is being implemented and urging the administration to prioritize funding for projects providing immediate relief to the supply-chain crisis. Such projects could include building pop-up container yards, lengthening operating hours, expanding port gate access points, modernizing cranes, and aligning data-sharing between different entities across the supply chain.

I voted to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act because it will begin to rebuild the foundation of our nation, helping to create millions of good-paying jobs and enabling us to better compete in the global economy. While some of the anticipated improvements will take time, we should prioritize the projects addressing the immediate challenge we’re facing — repairing the supply chain and reducing inflation. 

Those are goals that all Americans can agree on.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg, chairs the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.

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