Better Roads Staff | February 17, 2012

Bust Up Their Floating Crap Game

Let’s be ruthless about this.

By John Latta

Politicians and wannabe politicians are at their most vulnerable during election season. Let’s take advantage of that. Polls and the goings on in Washington with the reauthorization of a surface transportation bill show us that the nation’s infrastructure is important to most Americans. The public is increasingly aware of the issues, about the state of crumbling bridges and failing roads, about how much worse it can get and how much more it would cost to fix in the future. So it’s an election issue.

Let’s pressure candidates from state level down to local bodies to cross our line in the sand and put their positions about infrastructure on the record. Funding is just as much a nightmare problem at state, regional and local levels as it is in Washington. Fuel taxes, bonds, deficits, tolling and the repair-the-old-or-build-new debate are just as important an issue where you live. Let’s push them hard to reveal what they think and what they intend to do, and what they don’t think and don’t intend to do about our infrastructure.

I’ve written something like this in previous election years, and I’ll do it again because if we don’t hold their feet to the fire, they will, with some mightily rare exceptions, keep their infrastructure feet buried in their boots. For a candidate, unasked questions can be a free pass, one that we pay for.

We know some candidates’ tax returns become hot buttons when they’re not promptly laid on the table. It would be nice to see the public equally expect a candidate to outline his/her plans for infrastructure. A bit of a stretch perhaps. But even forcing candidates to answer questions could be huge. Because on the other side of the line, after the election, candidates are somewhat (although as we know not completely) accountable to promises made and positions taken. And when we know where they stand, we know better how to press them for what this industry needs.

You need a candidate to be more than just an infrastructure candidate, of course. Schools and health and taxes and many more concerns are probably issues more important to you and your family than infrastructure. But for this industry, election season is an opportunity to try to elect as few candidates who are “undecided” on infrastructure as possible.

In the frustration of endless extensions to SAFETEA-LU we were hampered by a sort of floating crap-game in Washington where politicians who had never put their views on record could duck and weave and avoid doing what needed doing. Let’s bust up the game.

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