State transportation departments would do well to engage business communities in building support for a better transportation system, panelists stated during a track session on expanding the nation's transportation system at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
The session, "Transportation Investment to Meet the Needs of Growth and Change," featured panelists from state DOTs across the country: Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, and South Carolina Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary for Intermodal and Freight Programs Doug Frate.
Panelists spoke to the nation's growing population and economy, which will ultimately require improved transportation capacity. This improved capacity, however, will be costly and require support from all levels of government and the business community.
"We need to look at the future by engaging the business community, which wants and needs a vibrant transportation system," Halikowski said. "It's more than talking about project needs and numbers. We need to talk in economic benefits while also explaining our own department challenges to businesses."
Schoch sounded positive when speaking about his own state and the plans on growing and changing to meet future transportation needs.
"We're optimistic about our future and about an upcoming increase in funding," he said. "But we really look to more than traditional options. For example, the state now allows Public Private Partnerships, which allows for more options in getting these projects done."
Agreeing with Halikowski and Schoch, Frate stressed the importance of partnership building in order to more easily grow and build support.
"We need to focus on communication and building those partnerships with other stakeholders," Frate said. "It's important to stress to everyone that transportation equals economic health, which is good for everyone."