Infrastructure isn’t partisan. It’s personal. No matter where you live, your political leanings, your age, your education, if you drive a car or a truck or take the bus or a bicycle, infrastructure has a profound impact on your daily life. We all have to get around. We all need lights to come on and water to come out of the tap. The idea that potholes aren’t partisan has been around for a while. For years, near-unanimous, bipartisan support for infrastructure investment has steadily increased, and leaders and voters in state legislatures and cities have rolled up their sleeves, making tough but important choices, and rebuilding and modernizing transportation, water, and energy systems. On May 4, Lubbock County voters showed their support for improved county roads and enhanced safety by a huge margin. Thank you.
But our infrastructure doesn’t exist in isolation. Infrastructure – literally – unites Americans. No state, city, or county can alone tackle the enormous and growing backlog of projects of regional and national importance, and Americans get it: more than 79 percent of voters think it is extremely important for Congress and the White House to work together to invest in infrastructure. We need federal leadership, we need a national vision, and we need a plan to pay for it.
Our nation’s aviation systems, roads, drinking and wastewater, ports and much more constantly receive near-failing grades that should at least embarrass us, if not spur national leaders to action.
That’s an alarm bell – but what about the opportunity? Smart investments in transportation infrastructure not only create good-paying jobs in construction, but also expand access to jobs and affordable housing across cities and regions. Better transportation infrastructure shortens commutes, reduces health-threatening congestion, and increases both worker productivity and family and leisure time. Investments in resilient infrastructure allow emergency responders to get to areas impacted by hurricanes, floods, fires and other disasters faster, helps communities recover faster, and, of course, it is more fiscally responsible to build once the right way instead of rebuilding repeatedly.
May 13-20, 2019 is the seventh annual Infrastructure Week - a national week of advocacy and education that brings together business, labor, and elected leaders to spotlight the need to revitalize, modernize, and invest in infrastructure.
One of the most important infrastructure projects in Texas is the effort by the Ports-to-Plains Alliance to designate I-27 to Laredo as a future Interstate Highway. This corridor extension will provide the only north-south corridor in Texas west of I-35 and intersect three major east-west Interstate routes. Additionally, it will serve three international border crossings at Del Rio, Eagle Pass and Laredo as well as connect West Texas population centers and hundreds of smaller communities. Not only is this extension critical to link energy and agriculture sectors to state, national and international trade but it will also significantly ease I-35 congestion and enhance state-wide economic development opportunities.
Highway safety in the energy and agriculture related corridor areas will be greatly improved by the extension of I-27 and will also benefit energy production by providing direct access from the Permian Basin oil patch to all Texas ports.
But such efforts are only a piece of the solution. For two centuries, the federal government was the catalyst for infrastructure projects that transformed America, made us a superpower, and built the middle class. Federal policy and public and private investment built the transcontinental railroad, the Panama Canal, the interstate highway system, and huge dams and the electric grid. We need leadership with vision and courage to tackle big projects again. This country can accomplish the unimaginable when we put our mind to it. We have to reignite that spark of innovation and ambition, and demand bold leadership to do what we know can – and must – be done. It is time to retire our old bad habits, to reject short-sighted thinking, and finally start building for tomorrow.