Lattatudes

Better Roads Staff | August 5, 2012

Making It Work

 

Okay, no seventh-inning stretch; let’s get right back into action.

jlatta@rrpub.com

You have read (or at least I hope you have) my constant urgings throughout the past three years to get out and press politicians to pass a new highway bill. Now there is a broad acknowledgment that pressure from the provinces made a difference in creating our new legislation. It’s not much of a bill, but it is what we have to work with. And as you have probably become aware of, the battle now is to make the 2014 bill that follows this one something special. Because this one isn’t.

We have to make the new legislation work. If it works, the public, and the politicians, may just make the 2014 bill good enough to help bring the industry back all the way.

MAP-21, the new surface transportation bill that runs until the end of September 2014, brings to an end the limbo lives of agencies and contractors who lived through nine do-nothing extensions of sad ol’ SAFETEA-LU. It doesn’t deliver enough funds, and $40 billion a year is hopelessly short of enough. But the bill brings us work, jobs and reforms. We must make the most of them. We must show the public they benefit from them.

A few examples: MAP-21 reduces the number of highway programs by two-thirds, removing some soul-destroying bureaucratic black holes. It contains significant reforms in the environmental review and planning process, measures that will cut delivery times and costs. It creates incentives for states to use innovative contracting practices and new technologies. It integrates performance measures (to be developed with the U.S. DOT) to assess the condition of facilities and the operation of roads and bridges, and to establish performance targets. It greatly increases private-equity funding possibilities. It gives states more allocating and spending flexibility in both routine and emergency situations.

Even if these reforms are not enough, it is essential they work. First, they lead to more work for your company or agency which benefits the people of your region. Second, you can create success stories that help educate a public woefully uninformed on our highway funding and transportation infrastructure needs. And third, it gets the industry rolling in the new, post-recession age. The legislation is our new reality; we won’t be going back.

Make these reforms effective and you take a giant step towards convincing the public that transportation is the prime issue that both parties can agree on while still, for the most part, hating each other’s guts.

In the modern idiom, we have to leverage what we have been given into something more. If you need links to find the details of MAP-21, email me.

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