This Editorial appears in the April 10 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
It’s been another busy week for legislative efforts to improve the nation’s roads.
As Transport Topics went to press, leaders in California were set to vote on a fuel-tax increase designed to provide $54.2 billion over 10 years to improve that state’s infrastructure.
This followed congressional hearings April 5, during which trucking industry leaders and the mayor of Atlanta in separate presentations implored legislators that something must be done about the crippling effects that congestion and crumbling infrastructure are having on the nation.
That same day, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, in an address at an industry event, doled out a few more details about President Donald Trump’s planned 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure rebuilding plan.
All of this is great. But when are we going to get our roads fixed?
The Interstate 85 bridge collapse was the latest high-profile example of how devastating it can be when use of a major commuter artery in a region is lost. This stretch is not heavily used by truckers, and extenuating circumstances contributed to its collapse, but had it closed for any other reason, the effect would be the same: The surrounding roads and highways would bear more traffic.
California Gov. Jerry Brown said he was hustling to meet a self-imposed April 6 deadline on that state’s funding measure to help prevent major problems later, reminding state leaders that it’s only going to get harder and more expensive to handle road repairs as the years wind on.
On Capitol Hill, leaders from FedEx Freight and Werner Enterprises Inc. carried a similar message for highways around the country. Werner CEO Derek Leathers said without significant federal funding, the safety and efficiency of the nation’s transportation system “will continue to deteriorate.” FedEx Freight CEO Michael Ducker said in a statement issued after his Senate testimony that the country must “make smart and effective use of the existing infrastructure now, while also leveraging future solutions that will bring added safety and efficiency.”
Ironically, it seems that one answer for improved efficiency can be found in the I-85 collapse. Necessarily, the process to get work going on repairs moved quickly. It was an emergency.
But considering that the condition of the nation’s roads and bridges earned a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers earlier this year, for a second time in as many ratings, isn’t this already an emergency situation?
Chao in her remarks last week commented that the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects should be streamlined. It’s an approach that Trump has urged, as well, and one that we agree could help jump-start some much-needed work on our roads.
Getting the money will be hard enough. Should any or all of these efforts bear financial fruit, the paperwork shouldn’t stand in the way of getting the jobs done.