A Road is a Road is a Road

The thing about our roads is that they don’t go anywhere.

Before we had ships, we had roads. Before we had cars and airplanes, we had roads. Before we had computers, we had roads. Before we had e-readers, we had printed books … and so on. And at one point in my career I worked on an IBM Selectric II typewriter. (I just rescued one from the dumpster to be junk/art in my office.)

by John Latta, Editor-in-Chief, jlatta@rrpub.comby John Latta, Editor-in-Chief, [email protected]

As technology made trains and boats and planes better, the old forms became obsolete. And while road building is light years away from a century or even half a century ago, a road is a road is a road, as Ms. Stein might have observed.

But as change changes everything and our society evolves in this frantically-paced era of technological revolution, are our politicians losing interest in roads because they will not evolve as spectacularly and as rapidly as, say, computers, phones or arcane investment opportunities ? Are they thinking roads are “old-fashioned” and maybe boring and as such they should not be seen too often with them? Do they fear that talking about roads marks them as dinosaurs because their speeches won’t have cool techno-speak embedded in them? Surely they would prefer it if they could rap about Roads 2.7, eRoads, roadmusic videos or something quirkily misspelled so they can put their man-of-the-moment cred on display?

I guess what I’m doing here is still trying to figure out why politicians will not seem to do the obvious and place our transportation infrastructure very near the top of their concerns for America’s future.

Roads are old-fashioned hard work. You have to roll up your sleeves and get dirty to build, repair or maintain them. They can’t do what my iPhone can do, but they are still a part of America’s foundation. That’s foundation, as in if this collapses we all come tumbling down.

My colleagues in this company’s trucking magazines like to point out that if you look around at basically anything – be it on a store shelf, your bedside table or in your child’s classroom – it was, or its components were, once hauled somewhere by a truck. And I like to make the obvious segue and point out that those trucks hauled it on roads. If you tell people that, many of them (especially politicians?) just nod slowly and smile in a “yes, of course, I knew that” sort of way, eager to get back to their iPad world.

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Are we taking roads for granted? If we are, it will cost us, and, shockingly, we’ll be surprised, and probably angry.