To The Herald-Whig:
A vibrant, growing economy depends on a healthy and safe transportation system. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Midwest, where access and connectivity for 60 million Americans is in critical need of renewal.
Transportation leaders in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and seven other states -- united as the Mid-America Association of State Transportation Officials -- recognized this years ago. Last summer, we shared our goals for transportation priorities and policies we hoped would be reflected in President Trump's infrastructure plan. Our hope was to ensure this initiative prioritizes rural highways, local roads, bridges, railways, locks and dams, harbors, and port facilities that are vital cogs in a national system to move goods and people.
When the administration's "Building a Stronger America" agenda was unveiled earlier this year, we were gratified to see that the plan echoed many of our priorities. Critical to us was the creation of a program that addressed the needs of rural infrastructure. The health of our rural communities is inextricably linked to the overall prosperity and continued success of our nation's economy and its ability to compete globally in areas such as agriculture, forestry, energy, manufacturing, mining and fishing. Any national infrastructure initiative must meet the needs of rural America.
Building a Stronger America helps do that by committing $50 billion, a quarter of all newly announced federal funding, solely to modernize and repair the vital infrastructure of rural America.
º The Midwest's rural population of 16.8 million people comprises more than 28 percent of the nation's rural population, and 28 percent of all rural vehicle miles traveled is in Midwest states.
º We have nearly 2 million lane miles of rural highways -- more than 31 percent of the national total.
º Our states are responsible for 132,000 miles of rural roads -- more than 21 percent of all state-DOT rural miles.
The nation's economy can grow only as fast as its infrastructure can carry it. Working together Congress and states should use the administration's blueprint for infrastructure investment as a starting point for action. Together, we can and must build a stronger America and revitalize our rural communities.
Endless debate and inaction has cost us the past two decades while the rest of the world invests in its future through infrastructure.
The time for investing in American's infrastructure is now. Our time is now.
Patrick K. McKenna
Director, Missouri Department of Transportation
Randall S. Blankenhorn
Secretary, Illinois Department of Transportation