As a transportation professional, I talk to my family all the time (probably too much) about what I worry about as the dollars spent or allocated to the federal government by Congress for infrastructure investment either remains the same or declines.
We all know that costs increase over time. Pretty basic. Check your own personal or family budgets. Really think about this. If there are no federal budget increases as cost increases for everything – people, equipment, contractors, supplies, construction materials, facilities… – what does this mean for infrastructure investment in particular?
I’m asked what about all these plane crashes lately, for example. Why does it take so long to find missing airplanes? Well, it takes significant investment in IT infrastructure (including satellites) to track all planes, wherever they are all over the world. It also takes establishing agreements with other countries. Money.
How in the world can two planes clip each other on an airport runway, if there are enough airport staff on the runways guiding planes or enough experienced air traffic controllers at work, for example? This should be impossible. Money.
Well, how about those bridges and overpasses that seem to be getting older and older and are used a lot by people going to and fro, but these bridges and overpasses have not been fixed much lately? Money.
How about those highways with potholes and unsafe signage and lane markings? Money.
I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. You won’t want to read all of the examples I can come up with anyway.
Finally, our Congressional leaders (and sometimes you) seem to believe that private industry can monitor itself. I don’t agree. Private industry exists to make a profit. Your ultimate safety may not be number one on their daily operations list.
Your state and local governments are struggling now just to stay operational with all the federal budget reductions and tax breaks for private industry and/or private citizens.
The role of the federal government is to ensure you are safe, both environmentally and physically. This includes the air you breathe, the places you work or visit, and how and where you travel.
To monitor all this, the federal government needs people. Experienced, trained people to travel out and about in the U.S. and the world to look over the shoulder of private industry or your state and local governments on your behalf. This costs money.
Think about this as our new Congress comes in next month and may continue to squeeze the federal government out of whatever money remains after years of squeezes.
By the way, as the federal government spends money, more people go to work both in public (federal, state and local) and in private industry (nationally and internationally). Everybody wins. But it takes money.
Really think about this for a moment for the new year.
Happy New Year to you and yours. Be safe and enjoy it.