One thing that’s true about me is that I love listening to sports radio. It’s tough for a young, hip guy in Seattle to admit listening to anything other than NPR and KEXP, but I toggle back and forth between 950 KJR and 710 ESPN nonstop. In addition to getting my sports news and talk fix, I find it to be a fascinating sociological study of what radio advertisers think/know about the listener demographic. Here are the main topics of local sports radio commercials: 1) divorce lawyers for men, 2) substance abuse recovery, 3) “male enhancement” and 4) debt restructuring. It’s a pretty bleak picture.
So, imagine my surprise yesterday when I heard a commercial from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) advocating for a six year extension of SAFETEA-LU. Oh, by the way, it also featured audio from Presidents Clinton and Reagan.
First off, for the uninitiated, SAFETEA-LU (pronounced “Safety Lou”) is the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act,” the funding and authorization bill that governs federal surface transportation spending. By the way, back in the day, the federal transportation funding bill was referred to as “Ice Tea” (it was spelled ISTEA, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act)…and you say I’m bad at acronyms?
Anyway, SAFETEA-LU reauthorization is important to WCIT because federal transportation funding = freight mobility investments, which are essential to the basic logistics of international trade. But it’s especially important to Washington state, because of where our freight is going. Approximately 80% of the goods that come into the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma go on to the rest of the country, which means that – if there’s a faster way to get there – those goods will go somewhere else…like British Columbia or through the soon to be widened Panama Canal. So, we need our multi-model freight mobility system to be operating at peak efficiency, from here all the way to Chicago.
Of course, like most things in Congress these days, there’s controversy over reauthorizing SAFETEA-LU, mostly stemming from that hot topic of the day: “how do we pay for all this?” Gas taxes just don’t cover it anymore, for a wide variety of reasons, and so the money has to come from the general fund or new dedicated revenues. So, rather than a long-term extension, we’ve been seeing short burst of a year at a time, which makes it hard to do long-term, strategic investment planning. Many of us in the pro-federal transportation camp (which ranges from international trade policy people to pro-transit environmentalists) want to see a six-year extension. Thus, the interruption of Mike & Mike in the Morning by the voice of Ronald Reagan from beyond the grave, promoting transportation investments as a common sense federal priority to keep our economy moving.
SAFETEA-LU reauthorization is another one of those hot policy topics that State of Trade is going to be following in the coming months, so keep your dial tuned in to this station…and we’ll be back after a word from our sponsor.