As our nation enters a new millennium with a new presidential administration and a new Congress that is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, there is an overbearing transportation issue that needs to be addressed in the years ahead: How and where do we grow from here?
National polls show subjects such as traffic congestion, urban sprawl, land use and the environment are now among the top issues we are facing as a nation.
Highway travel has grown by 143% since 1970, and is projected to increase by about 40% by 2015.
Urban areas are becoming more densely populated and are increasingly expensive to live in; suburban areas are expanding farther and farther out from major cities; traffic congestion is becoming worse; and all of this must be balanced with understandable public concerns about the impact of growth on land use, the environment and the economy.
Concern about sprawl, growth and the impact on the environment has given rise to the "smart growth" movement backed by advocates such as the Sierra Club.
We have a new presidential administration that may not agree with some of the policies being put forth by growth management advocates. However, this could mean that these groups are likely to step up their advocacy efforts precisely because they no longer have the support of the presidential administration as they seek to win public support for their proposals.
This underscores the need for us to educate the new administration and new Congress about our approach. The highway construction industry can lead the way in offering solutions to traffic congestion and urban sprawl that are both pro growth and pro environment.
The highway transportation industry needs to show that the funding increase achieved as part of TEA-21 is resulting in progress, but we also need to demonstrate that additional funding at all levels will be needed if we are to effectively address traffic congestion while helping our nation grow by building better communities.
TRIP is working with other highway construction industry groups to develop a public relations approach that will build on our Quality Growth Tool Kit as well as develop new research-based reports that will lay the foundations for addressing these important growth issues and a successful reauthorization in 2003.