Rodriguez for Congress campaign
Strategic Infrastructure Planning

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[September 19, 2016]  Strategic Planning for Infrastructure Development Will Fuel Economic Growth - Whether Republican or Democratic, most politicians find safety and comfort in the familiar promise that they support investments in infrastructure to support job creation in their districts.

I too stand among that number; guilty as charged. The difference, however, is found when you look into the specifics—the details—that follow the well-worn promise. All too often we see that the promise of infrastructure improvements is just an election year pledge that stands alone, absent any real connection to remedying current problems or addressing strategic concerns. The U.S. is in need of a long-range strategic plan for infrastructure development that can address current problems and anticipate the needs of the next generation in commerce and transit.

Estimates of the current U.S. population hover at about 320 million and that number is expected to reach 400 million within the next thirty-five years. When we consider the typical project life span of taking a transportation project forward from its innovative germ stage to environmental scans to its ultimate completion, the time is now to begin the work of designing and developing the highway infrastructure that will be needed by the middle of the twenty-first century. Although a significant part of this effort will require additional construction, much of the work will involve redesigning and reconfiguring existing roadways and bridges to handle the increase in capacity that will be anticipated by mid-century.

I would propose that we initiate an immediate study across the country of all locations on our existing interstate highway system that are traffic nodes—that is, areas where three interstate highways come together within a ten mile radius. These are the potential bottlenecks that must be addressed first if we are to create an infrastructure network that can support commerce and transit needs that we anticipate by mid-century. We should begin to collect data at each of these nodes to address the functionality of the existing system with its present capacity requirements, and this will allow us to make projections about the long-range functionality of the existing design. Where it is deemed necessary, new construction projects must be anticipated and funded so that the engine of the American economy does not falter.

In addition to considering the merits of highway construction projects, we must also look into other aspects of infrastructure development that can accommodate anticipated need in the coming generation. I believe that it is worth considering the merits of commuter rail systems that might connect mid-sized cities like several that exist here in the IL-18th district. In addition to the efficiency and long-range energy savings that such a system might provide, it also includes an improved quality-of-life metric for those who currently experience a long commute each day just getting to and from work. In addition, it is imperative that we invest in river lock and dam improvements as part of a comprehensive infrastructure program that focuses upon the anticipated carrying capacity of our current antiquated river control structures.

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Few politicians ever think beyond the timespan of election cycles, so it is sometimes difficult to get members of the U.S. Congress to agree to serious long-term strategic planning that is needed to prepare for mid-century commerce and transit needs. The approach that we take must be multifaceted, and we must not let it be degraded to the piecemeal approach of old-fashioned pork-barrel politics. We must make wise, data-driven choices in where we choose to invest our infrastructure resources, and we must strive to get the greatest efficiency out of our efforts. Rather than measuring the success or failure of such projects only in relation to short-term job creation, we must look more strategically of how the decisions that we make today can well influence the carrying capacity of the American economy well into mid-century and beyond. This requires visionary leadership on the part of our elected officials and the willingness to prioritize national needs ahead of any regional or partisan agenda.

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