On my “About Me” page you will find a personal branding video that talks about the importance, in my opinion, of expanding, innovating, and improving this country’s infrastructure. However, what the video doesn’t explain is how I came to care in the first place, so I thought I’d share with you some background that might help explain this fascination with a concept that is so broad it almost feels intangible, but at the same time is a critical part of our daily lives.
I moved to a suburb north of Seattle, WA when I was 12 years old. At 16 I passed the driver’s test and found an indescribable feeling waiting for me behind the wheel of my ’68 Mustang with moldy carpet and a driver side door that wouldn’t open. Fast forward to my freshman year at University of Washington and enter the world of a commuter’s nightmare. I couldn’t afford to park on campus so I either had to take the bus or fight gridlock into the U District. Riding the bus was easy enough…as long as you could find a parking spot at the park and ride.
Fast forward to 2004 when I landed my first “big kid” job. No more were the days of sleeping in, going to a bartending job at 3:00 pm, and driving home well after most people were sound asleep. This new adventure required me to hit the road every morning and evening with hundreds of thousands of other cars, crawling toward a destination where they passed out a paycheck. The frustration, exhaustion, and quickly learned bladder control during that time was eye opening.
In 2006 I took a position with a company that makes structural bridge components. The majority of our work is done with state and federal highway agencies. It has been an eye opening experience to deal with such a wide range of personalities and government “cultures”. Each DOT truly has their own idea on how to approach bridge projects. Some do whatever they can to help move projects along, knowing that lane closures are not fun for anyone. Others will lock up the brakes on a project while they verify that the tint of the paint going underneath the bridge is exactly as specified.
Everyday I see firsthand the very real and daunting challenges these state agencies face in regards to funding infrastructure projects. A ridiculously outdated federal gas tax barely scratches the surface of need. States have wisely turned to putting their own measures in place to cover the funding gap. This is a problem that is not going away, and if we strive to make our roads a place of convenience (no traffic), safety, economic importance (efficient movement of goods), and fun (road trip!) we will all be better for it.
Now go enjoy the day.