A Downside to Gridlock

Departments - Editor's Focus

August 31, 2012
Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor


Although November is still three months away as this is being written, the amount of tele-vised political advertising is ramping up quickly. By the end of a typical “Jeopardy” broadcast, not only have I learned a few new historical or science facts but also how miserable life will be if Candidate A or B wins in the next election.

It is tempting to write that political discourse is at a new low or more partisan than ever, but American political campaign history is full of name calling, dirty tricks and scare tactics. By the time the presidential campaign of 1828 was over, according to historians, both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were the subject of rumors and published accusations involving adultery, prostitution and even murder.

Asking political parties to be either less political or less partisan goes against the very words by which they define themselves. What might serve the American people a little better, though, is figuring out how elected officials can spend more time governing (acting on behalf of their constituents) and less time campaigning (striving to stay in office, presumably so that eventually they can act on behalf of their constituents).

The gridlock caused by political parties with two competing agendas has its fans. A gridlocked government, this theory holds, is less likely to raise taxes or enact a law that will introduce additional regulations.

Even fans of legislative gridlock, however, are not likely fans of the literal gridlock that occurs on congested highways or in detour zones caused by a bridge in disrepair.

Equipment companies KPI-JCI and Astec Mobile Screens, Yankton, S.D., (with sponsorship assistance from other companies, including construction equipment maker Liebherr) have been urging elected officials to address both forms of gridlock through The Road Connection project. (See “Making the Connection,” starting on page 38 of the May/June 2012 edition of Construction & Demolition Recycling.)

The Road Connection website (www.theroadconnection.org) portrays how overdue America is for a financial commitment to update and upgrade its transportation infrastructure, beyond the recently-passed MAP-21 two-year budget. According to The Road Connection, one fourth of America’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient and in need of repair or upgrade and the interstate highway system built in the late 1950s and 1960s “was only built under the assumption that after 20 to 25 years, it would be replaced.”

As The Road Connection’s Lisa Carson says, “If we want to improve our nation’s infrastructure grade from a D- to acceptable levels, we are going to need serious investments that can be promised for more than two years at a time.”

Organizers of The Road Connection, on their website, have provided a “Contact Congress” button that any of us can use if we wish to remind our elected officials that not all gridlock is welcome.