By Amanda Brown
“Dear Member of Congress: I’m stuck in traffic wasting time, fuel and money. All around me are trucks, commuters and families delayed and frustrated. Please pay attention to America’s ailing and inadequate infrastructure. It’s important. It’s your decision. It’s past time.”
This is the message of the newly launched mobile app from Building America’s Future. The app allows users to share their traffic experiences in real time directly with their Member of Congress, complete with a picture if they choose to include one. This new tool is meant to force Congress to listen to real-life transportation problems from the people that put them in office, with the intention of encouraging Congressional action on transportation and infrastructure funding.
“Usually commuters think traffic is like weather- it is something that happens to them and they have no control over it. But that isn’t the case at all,” said Ed Rendell, Co-Chair of Building America’s Future and former Pennsylvania Governor. “The policies we put in place, or the lack of a coherent long-term infrastructure plan, directly impacts the daily experience of Americans trying to get around their communities. This app gives commuters and passengers a tool to voice their frustrations to Congress.”
Infrastructure Investment Woes Go Beyond Traffic Congestion
Current transportation legislation falls short of addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs, limiting $105 billion in federal funding to surface transportation projects only. At a time when many components of the nation’s transportation system are reaching the end of their useful life, insufficient federal funding is forcing state and local governments to seek alternative financing measures.
However, when it comes to creatively funding transportation projects, cities often face many obstacles. While private-public partnerships have assisted some cities in developing infrastructure projects, only 33 states currently allow these partnerships to fund transportation activities. Other measures, such as local taxing and congestion pricing and tolling typically lack the public support to be viable sources of revenue.
Federal Government Must Take Action
The new “I’m Stuck” app highlights the inconvenience of congestion and aims to show Congress the effect of insufficient infrastructure funding on their constituents’ daily lives. While Members of Congress can certainly benefit from this type of grassroots education, local leaders understand these problems more clearly because they experience them alongside their constituents. Local officials also understand the need for local funding for infrastructure projects, and many have taken steps to raise their own revenues. But this needs to happen in conjunction with strong federal leadership and federal funding. Moving forward, it is important that all levels of government collaborate to work toward a robust and sustainable transportation financing model that will keep pace with the nation’s growing infrastructure needs.