US business group targets infrastructure red tape

DALLAS, Aug 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday said it will launch a multimillion-dollar campaign against red tape, lawsuits and regulations hindering efforts to fix America's infrastructure in the wake of last week's bridge collapse in Minnesota.

Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the powerful business group, said the country faced a crisis that was undermining its global economic fitness and threatened to take more lives.

At least nine people died in the Aug. 1 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge into the Mississippi River. Four are still listed as missing.

Donohue told a transportation conference in Dallas that urgent investment was required in everything from bridges to refineries and that red tape and regulations were to blame for much of the delay in getting the work started.

"No one objects to timely environmental reviews, and we all support strong health and safety regulations," Donohue said. "But the red tape, lawsuits, and mind-numbing regulations we have imposed on our infrastructure systems and transportation modes defy common sense."

The chamber said the initiative, dubbed "Let's Rebuild America," will involve documenting the problem, educating the public and policymakers and pushing governments to act.

"It's something we'll start very soon, in the next three months ... and it's something that's going to run for a long, long time because this isn't going to happen overnight," Donohue told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation and says it represents more than 3 million businesses.

Donohue said no oil refinery had been built in the United States since the 1970s, a fact he attributed partly to excessive regulations.

"The costs are prohibitive in part because of the regulatory costs. If you could simplify that, not take it away, you would get Exxon to build refineries," he said.

In his speech, Donohue said a quarter of America's bridges were structurally deficient and that 1,500 had collapsed since 1966. He also said that a third of America's major roads were in poor condition and that airports could not keep pace with surging traffic and passenger volumes.

Donohue added that the United States spent less than 2 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure versus China's 9 percent.