A long-term perspective on transportation funding

Therese Dunphy

November 27, 2012

Last night, I was helping my youngest son, a third grader, prepare for a social studies exam. As I quizzed him on communities and government, I realized that our infrastructure challenge goes well beyond  the limits of a two-year bill and a contentious Congress. We’re focusing on the here and now and how underfunded our roads are, but other groups are already lobbying the next generation of leaders. 

Want an example? My son’s notes focused on four responsibilities of government: legislation,  transportation (hooray), education, and recreation. So far, so good. But then I asked him for examples of each of the four areas. He listed trains and bike paths for transportation. I quickly reminded him that streets, highways, and bridges are among the main transportation functions of government. Apparently that was news to him, so I pulled out the textbook to see what he was taught. The case study for transportation was all about how a young girl improved her community by asking it to install bike paths.

Let me clear: I’m not against trains or bike paths, but textbooks are teaching these as the vital functions of government in absence of core means of transportation. Our kids are being taught to believe that these are the goals of government. My son got a lesson in highways, bridges, and public works that he won’t soon forget, but what about the rest of these kids?

We’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to sway a bunch of legislators who’ve acted like children, but perhaps we need to invest a little more effort with future decision-makers who actually are still children.

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