Look what cropped up

Soybean association mails out brochure to let people know the seriousness of transpo-funding situation, but Congress remains clueless

June 16, 2014

Everyone knows a hill of soybeans is worth something. The crop is a huge economic driver for the U.S., and the Illinois Soybean Association is trying to play a huge role in the next transportation-funding bill.

Last week I received a packet from the group in the mail. In it contained a zip drive and a brochure titled, Both Eyes on the Road, Bridge, Rail and Waterway: A Closer Look at Illinois’ Transportation Infrastructure Gaps. All areas of transportation are covered, including rail and water, but the focus is on roads and bridges. The solution is simple: The way out of this fix is to start fixing it. Here is a little snippet from the piece:

“The volume of agricultural goods increases, while transportation infrastructure deteriorates. As these deficiencies add up, so does the time and money required to fix these problems. This affects the bottom line of every one of Illinois’ more than 45,000 soybean farmers. The sooner we start making improvements, the sooner we can realize greater transportation efficiency and economic stability for Illinois and its farmers.”

It is only going to get worse—much worse. As the expansion of the Panama Canal creeps closer to completion, more and more freight are going to chug across deficient bridges and on crumbling roads. I attended the International Bridge Conference last week, and sat in on a session given by Paul Trombino III from the Iowa Department of Transportation. During the 30-minute talk, Trombino outlined the effect of the Panama Canal expansion will have on rural routes and bridges in the state of Iowa—the same type of lanes many involved with the Illinois Soybean Association travel every day. The effect will be devastating.

I would suggest that every farmer, manufacturer and retailer flood Capitol Hill with the type of package I received last week, and I’m sure many are already doing this. However, knowledge of the problem is not the issue here. What is needed is a funding solution. The House of Representatives’ recent suggested anecdote of using money saved from eliminating Saturday mail delivery is an absolute disgrace. Politicians have had well over two years to come up with a more formidable solution for the Highway Trust Fund, and so far the best answer we have is delaying letters, bills and prescriptions for seniors by another day. The move would save billions of dollars, which should, and most likely will be, thrown back to the struggling U.S. Postal Service. Yet here is the House proclaiming the move as one worth talking about for a multiyear road and bridge bill. Either they are completely clueless, or they think the average American citizen is completely clueless. I’m not sure which way to go here, but I will say we are headed for a transportation that is not worth a . . . oh, do I really have to say it?

Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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