You don't have to have a Ph.D. to know that effective planning requires a reasonable amount of certainty. And on Monday, when I was talking to students at Western Illinois University about the need for a clearer picture of the future so transportation planners can design solutions, I saw a lot of heads nodding up and down.
For the transportation community, this is the season. Relief from winter weather has arrived, and under normal circumstances, orange barrels and work zone signs begin popping up on road construction sites across the country.
Our friends and neighbors who work in construction are hard at it, improving America's transportation infrastructure so commuters can get to jobs and school more safely and effectively; so the goods that travel our nation's roads, rails, and waterways can get to markets; so the economy we've worked so hard to restore during the last few years can continue to grow.
But those transportation improvement projects--the ones that make our daily travel easier and that prepare America for a strong economic future--they require planning. And, as the audience at Western Illinois University seemed to understand, transportation planning at the local and state level requires some idea of a long-term national plan.
Two of the greatest leaders that the western part of Illinois claims--Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan--understood this. President Lincoln, whose attention was dominated by the need to hold our Union together, still worked with Congress to get construction started on the Transcontinental Railroad. And 30 years ago, President Reagan, a Republican, worked with a Democratic Congress to ensure a record level of funding for public transit.
That's the kind of vision we are fortunate enough to have today in the White House, a President who understands exactly how important our transportation system is to the lives we live each day and to the economy that is once again the envy of the world.
And that's the kind of vision we need from Congress. We need comprehensive, long-term transportation legislation. As we head into another busy construction season, our local partners need certainty from the federal government to decide if they can invest in a new road or rail line.
There is work to be done in every corner of this nation. Our transportation infrastructure needs both repair and reinvention, while one in five construction workers are waiting to get back on the job. Local leaders from every state in the nation are calling on their politicians to take action.
As President Obama said this week, "The easiest bill to pass in Washington used to be getting roads and bridges built."
Yet we are living with the ninth extension in a row of a law that expired 945 days ago. Next week, Congress will have the opportunity to take real action. The House and Senate have sent a good signal by going into conference together; now it's time to get something done.