No, not this way

Oct. 21, 2008

I am betting my Garmin could not even find Sen. Barack Obama’s camp.

I am betting my Garmin could not even find Sen. Barack Obama’s camp.

My Internet browser computer-bit the dust in an attempt not too long ago. I spun a massive web search to come up with any kind of media contact who was linked to the Democratic presidential hopeful, but the prospect list was as long as a VIP list to get into a local Wal-Mart store. One did not exist. I clicked my mouse to a premature death, but found nobody and no phone number. I later discovered I needed to go here, around there and through this to reach an automated message. I did eventually fill out an e-form, but my inbox is still waiting the arrival of an Obama response. Maybe I need to download some Secret Service software for security or something.

The lanky politician for change, however, could not shutter the Microsoft Window that contains his transportation policy. But after looking through the three-page plan, it has some noticeable smudges. It starts with the first paragraph, where Obama talks about strengthening transportation, including roads and bridges, as a top priority. It’s a strong start, but even a 350-lb man can be quick off the blocks during a 100-meter race. It does not take more than a couple of strides before the flab gets in the way, and Obama’s infrastructure blueprint is certainly carrying some dead weight.

There is mention of creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, an account that will receive $60 billion in federal bucks over 10 years to “provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation.” What is missing from the explanation, however, is the fact that this $60 billion jackpot has multiple winners, including those in the water and gas-line industries. The meat from this money loaf might be sliced thin, even shaved.

Obama then straps on his green goggles and swims with the environmentalists with all other references to the transportation movement. He wants to “strengthen metropolitan planning to cut down traffic congestion.” As president, Obama vows to re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart-growth considerations are taken into account. He wants to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks. The plan goes on to say, “As president, Obama will work to provide states and local governments with all the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable communities.” I am all for wetlands and dirt paths through forest preserves, but many urban areas in this country have been sprawled to the limits. Wider sidewalks and an additional planter or two are not going to cut it. Obama does want to create greater incentives for public-transit usage, but the systems currently in place need a serious jolt to keep the wheels of the train cars spinning. I believe the city of Chicago could need as much as $1 trillion in additional funding to handle such a surge, and I know cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Detroit also could use the cash.

This call to action carries a serious deaf tone. In the shadows of perhaps the worst bridge collapse in U.S. history, I would think there would be at least a paragraph detailing how aging spans will be dealt with. The fact of the matter is he only mentions the word “bridges” twice. Obama preaches change, but he is missing a critical verse here. New funding mechanisms need to be created to strengthen the backbone of the movement of commerce. New inspection methods need to be executed, and state DOTs need additional help keeping an eye out for cracks and signs of fatigue. Failure to outline our bridges with strong anecdotes is like talking about improving education while letting schools crumble to nothing.

Obama has at least taken a stance on transportation. However, I think it needs to be more of a global-positioning stance. What he needs is a stronger GPS.