Every once in awhile I come across a billboard with those
two simple words on a busy interstate system. And what better way to promote
the highway industry than amongst the people it serves? Those aerial rectangles
should read something to the effect of “Without roads, where would you
go?” I didn’t major in advertising during my college years, it was
my minor, but you get the idea.
New FHWA Administrator Mary Peters has exploded onto the
scene with a determined edge and a direct approach—but what this road
network needs is a Dave Thomas or a Subway Jared. Okay, maybe just a catchy
slogan will do. Mine could be borrowed at the right price.
In the public’s mind we’re the one who cuts in
line and slows everything up. Road and bridge construction is viewed as a
nuisance. This negative portrayal isn’t a shocker. It’s been a
problem since the early days of the interstate system.
I find it funny, no disturbing, that the leaders of this
country can turn a foreign city to rubble and most will shrug their shoulders
and move on. But try clearing space for a road expansion and the entire
neighborhood lines up to stop it. It happened here just a couple of months ago.
Local officials were looking to add a few lanes to a major route to accommodate
growth and faced fierce opposition. During a 2-mile stretch on my way to work,
banners and posters filled fences along the way demanding a stop to it all.
I’m betting these are the same people who pound their steering wheel
during times of congestion.
How many commoners really know how important it is to move
freight, which may contain baby formula or medicine for their child, across the
nation without delay? During this time of terrorist activity, how many know
that adding lane capacity could help with evacuation efforts? I really
don’t want to walk the streets searching for somebody who understands the
value of progressive transportation. I don’t think I have the knees for
This whole image dilemma resurfaced in my mind after I read
the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed emission standards for
currently unregulated nonroad engines and vehicles. The following is the
EPA’s stance on the issue taken from the Federal Register.
“In this action, we are proposing emission standards
for several groups of nonroad engines that cause or contribute to air pollution
but that have yet to be regulated by the EPA. These engines include large
spark-ignition engines such as those used in forklifts and airport tugs;
recreational vehicles using spark-ignition engines such as off-highway
motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles; and recreational marine
“Nationwide, engines and vehicles in these various
categories contribute to ozone, CO and PM nonattainment. These pollutants cause
a range of adverse health effects, especially in the terms of respiratory
impairment and related illnesses.
“The proposed standards will help states achieve air
Responding on behalf of its members, the Association of
Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) urged the EPA to finalize its regulatory
timetable as soon as possible, stating “equipment manufacturers are
positioned at the end of the development chain in that the emissions regulation
applies to the engine, and thus equipment manufacturers can only begin to deal
with the machinery redesign issues after their engine supplier has established
the technology path to conformity.”
AEM wasn’t throwing rocks at the Capitol building or
screaming “unfair” at the powers that be. Manufacturers are eager
to comply, and this is the side communities need to be exposed to.
Advertising coats the brain. Television, radio, print
media—all hit consumers in their comfort zone. Messages are taken in at
leisure, which makes them more powerful than ever.
We have the finest associations in the country fighting and
working for our cause. I think it’s time to launch a dive-bombing ad
campaign—because without roads, where would you go?