On Record: For 2009, make it local

Construction associations are urging their members to call, call, call their Congressional delegations. A February 15th deadline looms, marking the end of the short term funding extension of federal programs, including highways. The mood of Congress is to rubber-stamp 2006 levels and go on.

I don’t discount these concerns – an ’06 level would mean a deep decrease of $3.4 billion in highway funding this federal fiscal year. I would add, however, it’s just as important to set our sights on 2009, when the present highway bill is up for reauthorization.

Specifically, it’s time to consider the messages we send to our communities. While individually and in associations we need to promote the highway funding message, it also must be recognized our efforts carry the mantle of self-interest. When others view it as our payroll issue, a headline that reads “Roadbuilders call for additional highway funds” can be shrugged off with the feeling of “oh, they just want more money.”

It goes much deeper than that. Everyone has a stake in good roads. Since hovercrafts or rail-to-your-door are not likely to happen soon, roads are what we’ve got. Ignore their upkeep and you invite economic upheaval. This is not just our issue, it’s everyone’s.

But to appeal to those around you, keep the message personal and local. The following questions can help you jump-start the conversation:

  • How much time are you spending in traffic these days? According to The Herman Group, Americans average about 100 hours commuting a year, or about 20 hours longer than the average vacation most employees receive each year.
  • How are traffic congestion and/or poor roads affecting your business? If their customers have difficulty getting to them, they may choose to go elsewhere. Ditto if their vendors can’t make deliveries on time.
  • How concerned are you about the dangerous roads and bridges in this area? Roadway conditions are a significant factor in approximately one-third of traffic fatalities, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.

Underpin your arguments with a little research. Find out what local projects are in planning purgatory due to lack of funding. Check with The Road Information Program (www.tripnet.org) to see if they’ve done a recent transportation assessment of your state. Know which people are strong community influencers, and if you don’t already, get to know them.

This industry is not the only one with a stake in good roads. Spread the word.

Note: As luck would have it, the Helmets to Hardhats website (www.helmetstohardhats.org) I mentioned in my January editorial was between service providers last month. As a consequence, employers were unable to post their jobs. Dan Lozano, the site’s southwest field representative, says the new site will be hosted by monster.com and should be available for job postings by mid to late February.