Worried about the condition of our nation’s infrastructure, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell delivered a fiery keynote speech to the 1,200 attendees of this year’s Texas Transportation Forum, held in Austin Jan. 3-5. The forum was co-sponsored by Texas Transportation Institute.
“We used to be the best at everything,” Rendell said during his speech occurring days before he stepped down as governor. “Now our transportation is mediocre. What happened to us?”
The outspoken and outgoing governor made national headlines the week before when he was critical of an NFL decision to postpone a football game because of an approaching snowstorm. He continued that theme in describing America’s unwillingness to tackle the infrastructure problem.
“How many bridges have to fail — how many levees have to break before we wake up?” Rendell asked.
He said there were numerous ways to raise the money for road-building projects and proposed lifting a ban to allow states to place tolls on previously existing federal highways. “May I be bold enough to suggest it’s time to stop nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan and start nation building in the USA?”
Acknowledging that solutions are ‘fraught with political obstacles,’ Rendell told the crowd he was in favor of toll roads, public-private partnerships and additional taxes in order to improve infrastructure. He also said stimulus funding creates jobs.
Rendell proposed a nationwide public relations campaign to help change the way Americans think about infrastructure and urged those in attendance to educate their neighbors about why it’s important for the economy.
“We can win this fight, and we need you to be one of the soldiers,” he said.