Former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves called for more state and national investment in transportation infrastructure Thursday.
Graves, now the president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, made the comments during the 13th Kansas University School of Business Anderson Chandler Lecture at the Lied Center.
He said state leaders should consider mirroring his efforts in office, when he worked with legislative leaders to create a 10-year, $13.6 billion comprehensive transportation plan.
He called for similar action on the national level, but acknowledged Thursday that many issues stand in the way, including an economic recession, struggling financial institutions, health care reform and many others.
That does not take away from the need of aid for the nation’s transportation infrastructure, he said. He detailed a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that mostly gave grades of Ds and Cs to the nation’s infrastructure.
Roads got a D-, transit got a D and bridges earned a C.
“All the things we take for granted that support the quality of life we enjoy — the things our parents and grandparents helped pay for and build — are crumbling under our watch,” he said.
The trucking industry has been dealing with difficult times, as many of the members of Graves’ national trade and safety organization have reported, beginning with skyrocketing fuel prices last year.
“We quickly discovered we’d rather have high fuel prices with freight to move than low fuel prices with no freight to move,” Graves said in a news conference before his speech.
He said the stimulus package would help improve transportation, and that his association was pleased to see the focus and commitment to improving infrastructure in the bill.
That’s not the only answer, though. “The overall answer is we’re not in good shape,” he said. “We are nevertheless a growing country” that will require more infrastructure to keep up with the demand.
Also, at the press conference, he offered some comments on the current state fiscal crisis, praising the governor and the Legislature for working together to solve a recent standoff.
When asked to assess his performance as governor, he said the state raised some taxes, cut where it could and shifted some money around in other places. He recalled a particularly tough decision to stop some state transfers to local governments. “We got through it,” he said.