The time is now for Congress to finally get moving on transportation infrastructure

With the election now concluded, it is time for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to truly roll up their sleeves and make some inroads on the transportation infrastructure front.

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So, with what was very likely the most riveting Mid-Term election cycle in modern times, if not all American history, in the books, it leaves the question of: what happens now?

Well, for starters, with the Democratic Party now overseeing the House of Representatives, it could serve as a launch pad for some actual bipartisan movement for more than a few things, like, say, trade and healthcare to be sure.

But for the purposes of this column, let’s keep it to transportation infrastructure, a long time topic/talking point/theme on campaign trails (not so much for the mid-terms, it seems). Even though it was not a major issue candidates ran on, it still carries more than a little weight for all of us, especially when considering the far-from-perfect state of our nation’s roads, highways, tunnels, and bridges, and more.

With the election now concluded, it is time for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to truly roll up their sleeves and make some inroads on the transportation infrastructure front.

Why? Well, for starters the most recent grade given by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for transportation infrastructure in its 2017 report was a D+, not exactly Dean’s List material, to be sure.   

“Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future,” the ASCE report noted. “While we have made some progress, reversing the trajectory after decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure requires transformative action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners, and the American people.”

There was one key word in that comment that clearly caught my attention: decades, meaning a very long time or much more than a while.

Even though that D+ grade is obviously not cutting it, there has been an ongoing game of political “kick the can” pertaining to Congress making the needed investments and commitment to making changes that has been literally going on for decades (there is that word again).

In this space and in the pages of Logistics Management, the topic of kicking said can has been closely covered and scrutinized. But apparently Congress is not paying enough attention, as evidenced by the failure of Congress to increase the federal fuel tax, primary funding mechanism for financing a large amount of transportation infrastructure projects, since 1993.

1993? Yes, that is not a typo, it was a very, very long time ago indeed.

Aside, from the lack of raising the federal fuel tax, there has been, and continues to remain, what ostensibly is an interminable struggle for Congress to manufacture a true long-term piece of legislation that is able to come up with revenue drivers that can truly finance new and needed projects and also subsequently help the nation to capitalize on this strong level of economic momentum that is occurring.

That is not being said with an axe to grind, nor any political leanings either. And why should there be? In fact, one can make the argument that infrastructure is, in fact, the least partisan national issue there is.

Ray LaHood, President Barack Obama’s first Department of Transportation Secretary perhaps drove that point home best at an industry conference where I saw him speak a few years back, when he said: “Transportation has always been bipartisan,” LaHood said. “There are no Republican or Democratic bridges. There are Democratic or Republican roads. There just aren’t. There’s Americans who know how to build infrastructure, who know how to build American infrastructure. And so I think if the Congress can figure the pay for they can pass a long term bill.”

Those words rang true now, and they still ring true today. While LaHood was not able to fully execute on that thesis, it does not mean Congress cannot in the future. And with Republicans continuing to run the Senate and Democrats now in control of the House, the need to meet in the middle to give transportation infrastructure the funding (and attention) truly required, there is no time like the present to get things moving. It benefits all of us, no matter who you pulled the lever for in the voting booth yesterday.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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