A new vision

15 April 2008

A cross-country road trip Americans can make in days was measured in weeks a century ago. Back then, cloverleaves were limited to lawns; today, cloverleaves on highways are as about as American as baseball and apple pie. And when people in our industry talked about horsepower in the early 20th century, they were talking about drays pulled by the brute strength of animals.

Sometimes it seems as though our political leaders take our integrated transportation system for granted. This system, made possible by public and private sector investment, can move products seamlessly over a number of modes-trucks, trains, planes and ships. It can do so with great speed, with the shipper and customer knowing where the product is at all times, and in a cost-effective manner, despite today's high fuel prices.

The system provides a freedom of mobility, choice and convenience unequaled anywhere else in the world. In fact, no other single asset has contributed more to our nation's growth and prosperity than the transportation system. It spurs the growth of our businesses, provides the sturdy underpinnings of our economy, serves as the nation's lifeline to the global marketplace, and dramatically uplifts the quality of life in America.

America's transportation system is especially important to SC&RA members. Our Transportation Group members depend on well-maintained roadways to haul superloads. Often, these loads consist of heavy equipment used by our Crane & Rigging Group members.

Both groups are very involved in the construction and maintenance of our nation's infrastructure. We are proud to have helped the nation realize President Eisenhower's vision of a national highway system for the 20th century. This system has been extraordinarily successful.

In the first decade of a new century, we need a new vision. We must remember that a modern, well-maintained and interconnected transportation system is not our birthright. It requires careful planning-both physically and fiscally.

For the sake of our economy, our safety and our way of life, we must build and maintain a modern and interconnected transportation system capable of meeting growing demand. Road use is expected to increase two-thirds in the next 20 years. Already, road congestion costs our economy more than $63 billion annually in delays and excess fuel consumed. More than half of the 85 largest metro areas in the United States suffer from heavy, severe, or extreme congestion.

Demands on our ports and waterways are expected to double in the next two decades as international trade continues to grow. Moreover, the road and rail systems leading to and from ports and waterways are also overburdened and in need of large investments.

Our current financing system may not be up to the challenge. Federal Highway Trust Fund revenues may fall short of paying for the highway reauthorization bill that Congress passed last year as soon as fiscal year 2008. Depending on the administration's budget due out this month, up to 25% of the funds that states depend on from the federal government is uncertain.

A good place to start is by ensuring that dedicated transportation revenues are in fact used for transportation investment. We agree with the National Chamber Foundation's recommendation that stakeholders consider closing exemptions to the Highway Trust Fund.

While SC&RA continues to become larger and stronger, we maintain coalition involvement with highly respected and well-funded organizations throughout the United States to help ensure a louder and stronger voice for our members. Alliances, such as the Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition, which includes more than 300 organizations, are making significant inroads. As we work with these alliances to move our agenda forward, we will keep you informed through this magazine, our newsletters and SC&RA meetings.

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