The BIG WIG of Transportation Funding

damaged road

The million-dollar question in transportation – make that the half trillion-dollar question – is how to find the money to fix our roads. The industry and U.S. Department of Transportation have several ideas and proposed solutions, which have served as Band-Aid solutions.

According to the “Four Disciplines of Excellence (4DX)” business concept developed by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney & Jim Huling, “Your chances of achieving two or three goals with excellence are high, but the more goals you try to juggle at once, the less likely you will be to reach them.” They instead recommend focusing on your “Wildly Important Goal (WIG).”

To many of us, the big WIGs in solving the transportation infrastructure funding problem are in Washington, D.C., but I think the big WIGs solving the problem are everyday Americans. It’s people such as the business owners, the workers and the moms who use the roads every day to produce growth, live their lives and earn a living.

Show the business owner that spending more money on better roads means less time on the roads and more money in his or her pocket. Show the worker how spending the necessary $500 billion to fix and improve our roads means a faster commute time to work. Show the mom how better roads mean safer transportation for her family.

Convince them the $500 billion is worth it. If we convince them, they’ll convince Congress and the President. They’ll convince them with their vote. If you drive the voters, you’ll drive the politicians to make it happen.

We need to show them the value of spending money on our roads. Until everyday people understand the importance, it won’t drive votes, which is what drives politicians. Until it drives politicians, the money won’t be spent.

If you look at the overall U.S. budget of just less than $4 trillion, we on average need to find $100 billion per year – less than about 2.8 percent of the total budget – if we want to increase infrastructure spending by $100 billion throughout five years. (A potential five-year, $500 billion transportation bill?)

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The other option: Keep moaning about how bad the roads are and how next year we’ll try to figure out how to spend $600 billion throughout six years because it cost us $100 billion in failing infrastructure last year trying to figure it out.

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said at the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Annual Meeting in September that we need to dream big and build big. “As previous generations did for us, it’s our responsibility to pass to the next generation the transportation system they’ll need to succeed and prosper,” he said. “…while we often fixate on the cost of transportation…I hope we can focus on its value.”

We’re more than half way into the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) two-year transportation-funding bill. Let’s reach our big WIG of getting the voter to understand the value of transportation – and speak with their votes – so we can ensure the big whigs in Washington make solving the funding issue their WIG.

I encourage you to share your ideas with me at [email protected] or on the Better Roads social media platforms.

This is an expanded version of the Transportation Talk Editor’s Note column in the October 2013 print issue of Better Roads. Be sure to check out the print version in the magazine this month.