May 2016

Timing, as the saying goes, is everything.

A recent Politico report revealed that the Obama Administration has begun to “quietly push” to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions created by transportation projects. This potentially soon-to-be proposed rule appears to be aimed at forcing recipients of federal transportation money to track emissions and set goals to reduce them, mostly states, cities and transportation planning organizations. Nothing so far has been made public about any targets or penalties that would either be provided or imposed by the feds for failing to do so. In the bulls-eye, however, appears to be asphalt and measuring of the emissions generated by it.

Like everything else today in politics and government, opposition has emerged on both sides of this proposed plan: Environmentalists, of course, like it; industry people, not so much.

American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Nick Goldstein said that “a mandate for agencies to set climate targets could be used as a pretext to discourage highway construction at a time when America desperately needs better infrastructure.”

He’s right … there isn’t really a gray area here. Sure, a lot of people would like greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced, even people who aren’t environmentalists or aren’t entirely certain that global warming exists or is as big a problem as is often reported. But the timing of this proposed rule is terrible. Construction workers are busy again, jobs are being created, and we finally have some long-term transportation funding.

The stories of global warming are often just as dire as the reports of our failing infrastructure. And the latter causes emission problems, as well. Widening roads, repairing bridges, redesigning interchanges are all projects whose primary purpose is to reduce traffic congestion. Vehicles sitting still, idling on roads is not great for the environment, either, and making it more difficult for contractors, DOTs, highway departments and so on to do their jobs to modernize the nation’s transportation system, the very arteries of our country, is not what we need right now. Another saying goes, there’s a time and place for everything. Let’s do one thing at a time here, so we can get both things right.

You can also view previous issues of Superintendent's Profile.