By Joseph Evangelist
Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange
As more people get vaccinated against COIVD-19, we get closer to whatever the new normal will be. But if we want to enhance economic development as we search for the new normal, we need to turn our attention to the infrastructure.
The Biden administration released its American Jobs Plan which includes ideas for how to improve infrastructure. The $2.25 trillion plan (Phase 1 of a bigger plan) calls for $621 billion for transportation — including roads, rails and ports.
It also includes plans for renewing the electric grid and expanding high-speed broadband. Looking a little deeper, $115 billion is slated to modernize the highways, roads and bridges that are in the worst condition. There are also provisions for clean water improvements, and money to strengthen manufacturing and improving care for the elderly and people with disabilities.
I am happy to hear that some attention is being focused on roads because it is a sad statement when we see advertisements about “pothole season.” We should all be embarrassed by that.
I know the administration is also on record as being in favor of electric vehicles (EVs), so much so that it wants to convert the federal fleet to EVs. Included in the infrastructure plan is $174 billion for electric vehicles. That is not necessarily a bad idea, but if the government really wants to speed EV deployment in the transportation sector it needs to commit to a network of high speed charging stations for trucks. Unlike a car, you can’t just plug your 18-wheeler into your home electrical outlet.
If we are going to be serious about improving the infrastructure, I think we need to focus on those things that will also help move the economy along. I understand that all areas of infrastructure improvements are necessary, but the areas that will demonstrate immediate impact and are shovel ready should be tackled first.
Those include improving roads, bridges and tunnels. It also includes improvements to airports and waterways. And let’s not forget that we need to get the internet into places where it does not exist today, and improving places where it already is.
Let’s use the opportunity presented by what seems to be a real focus on tackling infrastructure issues, help guide the country back to a productive normal level of economic activity. The past 13 months have exposed some real needs. We should not waste this opportunity to address them and prioritize projects that will have the greatest impact on the economy.