America's governors are solving transportation challenges
Last weekend in Wisconsin, the National Governors Association held its annual Summer Meeting. There, governors met to discuss the critical issues facing states and to share their experiences and best practices for addressing those issues. I was honored to participate in a joint session of the NGA's Economic Development & Commerce and Natural Resources committees, "Under Construction: Building a National Consensus on Infrastructure."
In kicking off the session, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard reminded participants that "Infrastructure is a backbone to our nation and our states, sustaining quality of life and promoting the flow of commerce. As governors, we understand the connections between roads and bridges, locks and dams, and the communities they serve."
"Infrastructure connects us," Governor Daugaard said, "and its planning, construction, operation, and maintenance requires a national commitment."
America's governors come from different political backgrounds, but they all agree that transportation is important to our economy and our way of life. They know that transportation is more than the asphalt we pave or the train cars we build. Transportation is a bridge to opportunity.
It’s the highway that ensures a mom gets her kids home safely after soccer practice. It’s the bus that helps a young man work a part-time job to pay for school. It’s the freight train or the cargo ship that exports American-made goods to markets across the country and around the world.
Transportation moves America forward. But only if it's safe, only if it's in a state of good repair, and only if it's efficient and reliable.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, they also agree. If we're going to build a competitive 21st century economy--if we're going to continue being a nation of opportunity--we need to invest in our transportation system.
The hard part is agreeing on a way to fund these needs. But we can do it, and many of America's governors have shown us the way.
This year, half of all state legislatures have considered or approved measures dealing with transportation funding. Fourteen states have at least discussed raising their fuel taxes, and several have moved to protect transportation funding from being raided for general expenditures.
Wyoming, Virginia, Michigan, and Maryland are great examples of what happens when we come together and figure out common sense ways to address our transportation needs.
For instance, Governor O’Malley, found that driving on congested or deteriorated roads costs Maryland commuters $6.2 billion per year. His constituents simply could not afford more time spent in traffic. But thanks to his leadership, Maryland will be able to invest $4.4 billion in their infrastructure over the next six years.
Governors and state legislators aren’t looking at infrastructure through a partisan lens. They’re looking at crowded buses, congested highways and neglected train stations. They’re looking at potholes and bridges that are so old--as President Obama pointed out last week--they could qualify for Medicare.
And they’re hearing from businesses that need 21st century infrastructure to grow and hire.
The American people are counting on us in Washington, DC, to lead. They're counting on us to make the critical investments needed to move this country forward. They're counting on us to guide our nation's transportation investments along safety and economic lines, not partisan lines--just as America's governors and state legislatures do.
It won't be easy. But with the effectiveness of the governors I met last weekend as an example, we can succeed.
Anthony Foxx is the 17th U.S. Secretary of Transportation.