Transportation spending drives nation

Published 12:07 am Sunday, May 23, 2010

America’s history is marked by significant progress with investment in transportation infrastructure.

Early roads sped up mail delivery.

The proliferation of steamboats — many of which docked right here in Natchez — quickened the settlement and expansion of the Southern and Midwestern states.

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And, the American West was “won” economically by railroad expansion.

Post-World War II development of the National Highway Defense System — our modern Interstate Highway system — was a wise investment.

This week, as a national transportation group — the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials — met in Natchez, one of their focuses was to explain the importance of transportation on our nation’s economy.

The two are so intertwined in our history that AASHTO president and Natchez native Larry L. “Butch” Brown recently coined the phrase “transconomy” to explain the concept that transportation and the economy are inseparable.

To prove his point, Brown points to stats from federal stimulus spending in 2009.

Transportation projects, he said, received 6 percent of the funding, but 14 percent of the jobs the stimulus spending has reportedly created or saved came from that spending.

We have little doubt Brown’s new word has merit.

Will America’s future be marked by creative, forward-thinking infrastructure investment?

Or will we miss the opportunity to leap ahead now, take the economic bull by the horns, while the world economy is slow?