Transportation Talk

‘Crowdfunding’ the Highway Trust Fund?

tbUntitled-1 By Tina Grady Barbaccia, Editor-at-Large

tinabarbaccia@randallreilly.com

Every day for the past few weeks, I have seen videos of friends and colleagues dump buckets of ice water on their head as a way to raise awareness of a degenerative cancer that eventually takes one’s life. These ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (IBC) videos have gone viral on social media. The person dumping ice on his or her head challenges others to do it or donate money. I was challenged by several people. I honestly haven’t had a time to dump a bucket of ice on my head, but I think that although talking about ALS to raise awareness is important, this terrible disease needs money not ice water dumped on a person’s head. I’ll eventually dump that bucket of ice on my head because I know everyone just wants to see me scream when I do, but I’ve chosen to donate money as well.

Money is really what is needed to help ALS, the acronym for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain.

This recent challenge truly shows the power of social media and what increasing awareness can do. It really got me thinking. The ALS Society has managed to raise nearly $80 million (as of Aug. 25) from the IBC. What if we could find a way to use social media and “crowdfunding” to help the current funding issues with the Highway Trust Fund? (I am in no way trying to take away from the seriousness of ALS by trying to make a parallel of raising awareness and fundraising between the ALS challenge and the awareness needed for the United States’ crumbling infrastructure.)

Could we come up with a challenge for Congress and other integral policymakers that would be as popular and go as viral as the IBC?

The nation’s crumbling infrastructure is like its own disease that continues to get progressively worse. Sure, we just underwent a “treatment” with Congress’ passage of a $10.8 billion Highway Trust Fund (HTF) temporary patch that should allow continued funding for road, highway and bridge construction through May 2015. (For a story on the HTF patch, go to betterroads.com/congress-passes-highway-trust-fund-patch.) But now that we have a temporary fix, a long-term solution is needed. (I know, I’m preaching to the choir on this one.) States are not in any hurry to start major highway and bridge projects without a multi-year funding deal in place because they fear that funding will run out before projects are completed.

I challenge you to challenge Congress to cut to the chase and come up with a solution. Let’s get a plan in place. Whether it’s asking them to dump ice on their heads or drive on the nation’s most functionally deficient and structurally obsolete bridges if they are not able to reach a solution – even if it comes down to “crowdfunding” the cause through social awareness – it’s time to stop the patches and really find a cure.