The Chamber of Commerce, Labor, and Greens: A Triple-Win on Transportation

America’s biggest business lobby and largest Labor union rarely agree on much. In fact, both spend a good deal of time working to defeat policies supported by the other.

So when Tom Donohue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, sit side by side to enthusiastically support something, it’s worth paying attention.

This week, Donohue and Trumka appeared before the Senate committee that oversees our national transportation system to call for a new federal transportation bill. The Environment and Public Works Committee has a lead responsibility for writing the law that guides and funds transportation projects all across the country, from highways to sidewalks and public transportation systems to canals.

The last version of this transportation bill, passed in 2005, expired in September of 2009. Since then we’ve been running on various stopgap measures that have halted long-term investment plans and put many construction jobs on hold.

As a result, business and labor came together to support a goal that can both boost business and create jobs. Call it a Red-Blue coalition.

What’s great about this unlikely partnership is that we have the opportunity add another important color to the coalition: Green.

NRDC has long been on record supporting action by Congress to investment in our transportation system with a new, multi-year transportation bill. We support this because, as Donohue and Trumka point out, it will help to jumpstart our economy and put people back to work. But first and foremost, we support renewal of our federal transportation policy because with key reforms, the bill can help us make significant progress toward reducing oil consumption, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, a landmark study conducted by some of the country’s transportation experts found that we could reduce carbon pollution in the transportation sector by up to 24 percent. At the same time, these measures would save travelers billions of dollars on transportation costs.

This potential for big environmental gains is why we’ve joined with several Labor organizations through the Blue-Green Alliance to support federal transportation reform. And it’s why we worked with Environmental Entrepreneurs, a network of 850 business leaders across the country who together have created over 500,000 jobs to offer support for President Obama’s unprecedented plan to invest in clean transportation infrastructure nationwide.

Working together to reform and renew our federal transportation laws, we can achieve a triple-win. Call it a Red, Blue, and Green coalition.