A vibrant, growing economy depends on a healthy, safe and functioning transportation system. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Midwest, where access and connectivity for 60 million Americans are in critical need of renewal. Transportation leaders in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin – united as the Mid-America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) – recognized this years ago. Last summer, we shared with the White House our goals for transportation priorities and policies we hoped would be reflected in President Trump’s infrastructure plan. Our hope was to ensure this infrastructure initiative prioritizes the rural highways, local roads, bridges, railways, locks and dams, harbors and port facilities that are vital cogs in a national system to move goods, people and services.
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. Coming from states built upon small towns and farms, 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. We firmly believe any national infrastructure initiative must meet the needs of rural America.
Building a Stronger America helps to do that by committing $50 billion, or a quarter of all newly announced federal funding, solely to modernizing and repairing the vital infrastructure of rural America.
A reinvigoration of investment in our rural infrastructure is essential to improving safety, mobility and quality of life for residents in the 10-state Midwest region. Rural infrastructure provides individuals the access they need to healthcare, education and jobs. Consider:
• The Midwest’s cumulative 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.
• We have nearly two million lane miles of rural highways – more than 31 percent of the national total.
• 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 only grow 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. Let us not let policy divide us for the next decade. The time for investing in American’s infrastructure is now. Our time is now.