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Tolling Points

‘Fix the Damn Roads’ Becomes Rallying Cry for U.S. Mid-Terms

Bill Cramer

Something important may be brewing as the United States moves closer to mid-term Congressional elections in early November.

In at least two campaigns in the hotly-contested Midwest, The Washington Post reports that candidates are treating infrastructure investment as an issue that can bring them the votes they need to win.

And in a third state, a governor who isn’t seeking re-election is taking aim at legislators who seem willing to rule out a viable infrastructure funding option sight unseen, without further studying it.

“The administration talks a big game about infrastructure but hasn’t done a whole lot,” said Abby Finkenauer, a candidate in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. “I tell people that I want to go to Congress, work across the aisle, pass an infrastructure bill, put it on his desk, and see if he signs it.”

The Post says Finkenauer sees infrastructure as an “easy opening” with citizens who tend to switch their votes between the major parties from one election to the next.

In Michigan, Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Gretchen Whitmer memorably promised to “fix the damn roads” in her campaign’s first TV ad. “In a debate last month, she described the plight of families that had been hit with bills for car damage after driving into potholes,” the Post recounts.

“That $800 could have been money for rent,” Whitmer said. “It could have been money for a vacation.”

And in Connecticut—where IBTTA has had a direct and positive voice in ongoing deliberations about a reinstated tolling program—Gov. Dannel Malloy was scathing in recent comments about Republican and some Democratic state representatives who were unwilling to even study tolling as an option to avert a looming crisis in highway infrastructure funding.

“I worry that some in modern-day Connecticut are subscribing to their own know-nothing philosophy,” he said. “They’re choosing to reject new information, to decide proactively to know less, to limit the scope of their options before even fully understanding what those options truly are.”

The Washington Post’s regional roundup quotes many other candidates addressing a variety of other issues. What’s notable, though, is to see infrastructure breaking through as a bread-and-butter issue, when it barely registers in most pre-election polls asking voters to name their top concerns.

The mid-term vote is still three months away. A great deal can and will change between now and then. But the fact that campaigns are focusing on infrastructure suggests two important conclusions: Candidates are talking about “fixing the damn roads” because they’re hearing about it from voters. And, the surface transportation community in Washington, DC has been doing a great job over the last few years of keeping the issue in the news.

“The next question, of course, is how we pay for the infrastructure we say we want,” said IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Patrick Jones. “And when legislators reach that point, it’ll be important to recognize tolling as an essential tool in the funding toolbox. For now, it’s heartening that the conversation is continuing. We could be in for a very interesting and positive few months leading up to mid-term elections!


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