We have another chance to get what we need to succeed

Feb. 3, 2021

This column published as "Together? It’s Up to Us" in February 2021 issue

At the moment of this writing, I am sitting in bed, my laptop atop my crossed legs, the television is on in front of me, and in minutes we will have a new president. 

The anxiety of these past weeks since the shocking events of Jan. 6 cannot be fully accounted for, certainly by any one person—which is to say not by me. I still vacillate between despair, confusion, impotent anger, and a thirst for change. We, as a people, stand poised on the cusp of enormous potential—and like any such moment, that potential can be for good or ill in equal measure.

Where will we go from here?

I make no stance toward allegiance politically, but I will say our divisions are deep, jagged, and real. As such, I can only wish our newly elected president all great and good luck in his attempt to forge bonds where at present there are rifts.

Of immediate concern to us specifically in the road and bridge world is to what degree will the incoming executive and congressional makeup prioritize some rock-solid and long-term infrastructure support. It seems that the new administration is pretty serious about getting it done, and done on the quick.

Less than a week ago, President Biden—yes, I can now officially write that—announced a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which would, among other initiatives, step up COVID vaccinations nationwide, get dollars into the hands and accounts of working Americans, and extend and expand unemployment benefits and paid family leave benefits. All of these things will directly affect construction workers, owners, and their families. Along with this comes the Build Back Better Plan, which will, according to the Biden transition team, “make historic investments in infrastructure, along with manufacturing, research and development, and clean energy.” 

I suppose I do not have a grand point to make this month. I looked for one. There is a plethora of road and bridge work, any of which would make good food for discussion. But this month marks the eleventh month that the impact of the pandemic has been felt in our nation, and I find myself somewhat weary, balancing a persistent case of mild exhaustion with the kind of hope you feel on Christmas Eve, when you know it’s only hours until you get to watch your loved ones open their gifts, and you get to share that rarefied piece of time, a time that is quiet and dark and yet raucous with discovery. 

I guess what I mean to say is that I am hopeful our industry will get what it needs and that in the same grand stride our society will finally emerge from the horrible cloud of disease and step into the light of healing.

We’d better hold our new leadership accountable. I’m confident we will. Confident enough to give them the final word here:

“It’s time to stop talking about infrastructure and finally start building it. Millions of good-paying jobs that put Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and ports to make them more climate resilient, to make it faster, cheaper, and cleaner to transport American-made goods across our country and around the world. ...

“We can do these bold, practical things now.” 

About The Author: Budzynski is senior managing editor of Roads & Bridges.