Roads, bridges, rail, air, mass transit. The quality and capacity of our transportation assets affect each of us directly. For work or for pleasure, every one of us is affected by the state of transportation every day, whether driving on our roads, crossing our bridges, riding mass transit buses or paying increased costs for the products we use to be transported.
And let's be honest about it, we all pay for our transportation assets. Either through paying taxes to fix them, or paying with our time while detouring around closed bridges or sitting in severe congestion because the system is getting so bad. As with any asset, proper management requires a financial investment to keep it in good condition and to reduce increased costs over time.
No one wants to pay more and no one wants to sit in traffic, frustrated with deteriorating roads and bridges because of insufficient funding. Whether taxes or tolls or user fees, an investment of some kind must be made, or the state of our infrastructure will only worsen.
Yes, we need the obvious -- more money -- to fix our roads and bridges. But, we also need to pay closer attention to how these assets are managed and maintained to reduce our costs over time, especially as state budgets are passed without important transportation funding.
Transportation is vital to doing, well, anything, in our state. Neglect and poor management of roads and bridges slow us down, whether we're headed on vacation, to an important business meeting, transporting product to an important vendor or on our way to work. We use our roads and bridges every day; we should ensure they are cared for responsibly every day.
The Pennsylvania Legislature has failed, hopefully temporarily, in its responsibility to provide for the additional funding necessary for the needed improvement in our transportation system, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of the financial need from multiple respected sources.
We now need to focus on maintaining what we have and managing deferred major improvements so that our system does not crumble beneath us.
The state Department of Transportation has already made significant progress in efficiencies and projects programming and simply lacks sufficient funding to implement identified projects like the Interstate 83 widening improvements.
Metropolitan Planning Organizations do a great job of identifying needs and using every available dollar to make improvements; there just aren't enough dollars to do what needs to be done.
There is no shortage of reports identifying our transportation needs, including the American Society of Civil Engineers report titled "Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure."
Gov. Tom Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission also issued a report containing new and innovative ways to meet our transportation needs.
Solutions have been proposed, but the elephant in the room is available funding. As the funding dance continues, there are efforts such as improved asset management that need to be put into place now. We need to manage our transportation assets through assessment of needs, viable solutions, costs, prioritizing, budgeting and implementing.
Yes, we need to generate the funds to do the work, and we need to focus on how we can better manage our assets for when we have the funds and through the times we don't.
We know that whenever an infrastructure asset is built, it has a life span; it wears out. We know that if we perform routine maintenance we can prolong its life. We also know that we will need to repair, upgrade or eventually replace it. We need to allocate funds each year towards this work, rather than waiting until something fails (like a bridge collapse).
Hopefully the Legislature will figure out how to solve the additional needed revenue issue, but in the meantime we need to manage our assets carefully in the immediate and long-term.
For a more local view of the condition of our public assets, see the ASCE Central PA Section's Scorecard at www.pareportcard.org.
-- John Klinedinst is pres ident and CEO of York-based C.S. Davidson, Inc.