Defeat Skepticism on Highway Funding

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief | September 28, 2010

On the drive into our office in suburban Chicago, pavers, cranes, excavators and myriad other machines line the tollway adding lanes in an industrious program slated to continue through 2009. It's funded without federal assistance.

That's not the scene in other parts of the country, though. In fact, states that rely heavily on federal transportation dollars face a 34-percent reduction in funding heading into fiscal year 2009, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

On Oct. 1, the Highway Trust Fund will beunable to cover the 2009 obligations under the current authorization, SAFETEA-LU. ARTBA is calling upon Congress to restore $8 billion transferred from the Fund in 1998, which would cover the 2009 obligations.

But that's just the first step. The transportation authorization expires next year, and with November's change in administration, the contents of the next bill are unsure at best, seriously at risk at worst.

What concerns us, however, is more systemic than whether Congress can put together another highway bill. No, we're concerned with whether Congress can even act on the issue.

Partisanship and outright antagonism in Congress threaten to torpedo any cooperative effort that might lead to what's best for our infrastructure and we, the people. The levels of skepticism and frustration among voters are extremely high in regard to their belief that the nation's leaders are able to fix the problems of today.

But we cannot let that sideline our industry in its efforts to convince our congressional leaders to provide federal funding for transportation. Phone calls, visits and letters still matter. Jobs are at stake, transportation safety is at stake, interstate commerce is at stake.

Solutions exist. Instead of focusing on the president, who executes policy, we need to focus on our representatives, who create policy. Target your three congressional leaders. We each elect two senators and one representative. Find out where they stand on transportation policy. Let them know what's best for their constituents.

Convince them to act accordingly, or elect someone who represents your interests. It's your right, and your obligation.

We welcome your comments.


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