Keeping up with infrastructure requires special mindset

By |  December 8, 2015
Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Passage of a long-term highway bill was long overdue.

Investing in our infrastructure is like investing in our health. We should never stop. In fact, I don’t think it is even a matter of choice. We already made a commitment to maintain our infrastructure when we installed it decades ago. Shame on us for letting it get to the point where bridges are collapsing and so many of our roads are worn to the point where they are unsafe during a rainfall.

Maintenance of our infrastructure isn’t just limited to repairs; it must also include reform. I find it interesting that the environmental supporters who embrace hybrid cars and scoff at being stuck in traffic never seem to support programs that would increase traffic flow and reduce the idle time that contributes to air pollution.

As for corporate America, whenever a highway bill is passed it is always a shot in the arm for our industry. The biggest difference is that everyone is confident there will be plenty of work to go around.

Of course the challenge will be for us to prepare for this in such a way that a surge in business activity doesn’t result in longer lead times to our customers or affect other areas of our business not directly related to the highway program – such as exports, mining or energy related projects.

Accordingly, I think we should take this opportunity to rethink this entire process. There is obviously a trend: A highway bill gets passed and we all get busy for a few years. Then the bill expires and we all slow down and fight for business while we scream at Washington to get off their duffs to pass another bill. The market reacts. Companies either clean house and find ways to compete, or they are consumed by those that do.

Some of this process is constructive, and some of it is painful.

I can’t help but think of the health metaphor. It is like the person who starts and stops a diet and exercise plan every few years. That person gets healthy and looks and feels good for a while. Then, they let up on their program and let themselves go, eventually quitting altogether. They start to look worse and worse.

This kind of pattern never seems to end victoriously.

I realize I am oversimplifying here, but what if everyone simply took a mindset of doing the “next right thing” when it came to our infrastructure? Whether it be a politician on a transportation subcommittee or mechanic on a paver, I suspect if we left our agendas in the car or truck every morning and went through each and every moment of every day driven by this mindset, we might not have to ask our elected officials to get off their duffs to save ours every few years.

Paul Smith is international marketing manager for Astec’s Aggregate and Mining Group. He can be reached at psmith@astecindustries.com.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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