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The I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis reminds us of what happens when transportation officials make difficult choices because of poorly funded maintenance.

My family gathered to celebrate my mom's 75th birthday a few weeks ago. Everyone enjoyed the fellowship, charm, and especially the warm weather on Galveston Island in Texas. Following a great day, the kids and their cousins settled down in the lounge to catch up. In a short time, the topic turned to politics and the upcoming national election.

These young professionals proudly professed their opinions on all the issues, including the Middle East, the need for national health care, and even the United States' position, or lack thereof, on CO2 emissions. I was surprised that each knew how his favorite candidate voted on these key issues.

Since the tab was on me, I was permitted to offer my opinion. I said the issue most important to me was none of their favorites. I was concerned with how the new president would rebuild America's infrastructure. I support politicians who promise to effectively and efficiently upgrade our methods of transportation.

The kids chuckled. “Dad, you get paid to say stuff like that,” chided the soon-to-be Concrete Industry Management graduate. But I think I created some second thoughts on my opinion after they considered answers to my three rhetorical questions: How many of us were delayed this weekend on our flight here for non-weather reasons? How many of us were in a traffic jam last week? When was the last time any of us took mass transit?

I'm not sure I really wanted to convince any of them to focus their political beliefs solely on transportation. After all, each of these talented souls is about to embark on careers in medicine, education, and social work. They need to back visionary leaders who will energize our next generation and help them leave their mark on the world.

It's clear to me that in this election year that we have one important task. As stakeholders in the transportation industry, we must bring greater attention to the important issues of improving roads and the transportation infrastructure. We need to get to every candidate at every level and of every political party. We must teach politicians that success to practically every social initiative could be quicker with better roads and transportation systems.

I know I've asked for help before. But this year your involvement could make a major difference. The nation is focused on the election. And candidates are always searching for issues to help distinguish themselves. One great image could be that of a steward of the public safety. The I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis serves as a vivid reminder of what happens when transportation officials make difficult choices because of poorly funded maintenance

I urge you to monitor the efforts of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), which is co-chaired by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors of America. Their work is on your behalf. The TCC represents construction industry interests in a broad-based reauthorization coalition known as Keep America Moving.

With TCC, many of your national associations are asking you to send staff to Washington, D.C. this month to meet with lawmakers. It's an opportunity to get upfront and personal with lawmakers. I hope you join the effort. Bring a young professional member of your staff to show that your company's commitment is not only about next year, but for the next 20 years.

Our next generation can achieve its goals easier if we leave them a durable path. For more on this event, turn to page 14.

RICK YELTON
EDITOR IN CHIEF / ryelton@hanleywood.com