I was reading a story in Monday’s Washington Post about infrastructure. The title caught my eye: Infrastructure is a Priority, Survey Shows, But Paying for it Isn’t . The article talks about the president’s budget request, including the Infrastructure Bank idea (I blogged about this specific proposal for National Journal earlier this week, I’m not much of a fan). The article is well done, it identifies the fact that many of these infrastructure proposals seem designed to avoid anyone having to say that they are raising any revenue to pay for anything (Anyone out there know a way to pay for infrastructure without money???)
The piece came as a result of a poll done in the aftermath of a report released by former Secretaries of Transportation Norm Mineta and Sam Skinner, and sponsored by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. The Mineta/Skinner initiative was the result of work by a bipartisan panel of 80 experts (full disclosure, I am one of the 80). I blogged about that report as well when it was released.
Here’s my take. The problem is that everyone wants to complain about how bad things are. Too much traffic, too many delays, things don’t move fast enough. There are lots of studies done on the costs. But too many folks are too intimidated by the basic fact of infrastructure building (it takes money). We all need to be more willing to say this; we need to go out next to a clogged highway or a lineup of airplanes waiting to take off and point to that and say we can fix it, but we need to do something that is going to cost money. Then, we need to make the extra effort, to show people in a very direct way that their money is being used on a particular solution, this is something we almost never do a good job of doing. It shouldn’t take a collapsed bridge.
We in aviation are as guilty of this as anyone else. We debate things like federal grants and local user fees within and among the industry. That’s one of the reasons we are not further along on air traffic control modernization; it is a conversation held by, among, and for, aviation insiders.
We at ACI-NA are committed to changing this dynamic. Transportation has become like the weather; everyone complains, no one does anything about it. But unlike the weather, we CAN actually do something about this.