Year 3, Month 11, Day 28: Get Your Kicks!

The Vacaville Reporter (CA) runs an AP article on climate change’s impact on our transportation systems:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wild weather is taking a toll on roads, airports, railways and transit systems across the country.

That’s leaving states and cities searching for ways to brace for more catastrophes like Super-storm Sandy that are straining the nation’s transportation lifelines beyond what their builders imagined.

Despite their concerns about intense rain, historic floods and record heat waves, some transportation planners find it too politically sensitive to say aloud a source of their weather worries: climate change.

Political differences are on the minds of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, whose advice on the design and maintenance of roads and bridges is closely followed by states. The association recently changed the name of its Climate Change Steering Committee to the less controversial Sustainable Transportation, Energy Infrastructure and Climate Solutions Steering Committee.

Still, there is a recognition that the association’s guidance will need to be updated to reflect the new realities of global warming.

“There is a whole series of standards that are going to have to be revisited in light of the change in climate that is coming at us,” said John Horsley, the association’s executive director.

In the latest and most severe example, Superstorm Sandy inflicted the worst damage to the New York subway system in its 108-year history, halted Amtrak and commuter train service to the city for days, and forced cancellation of thousands of airline flights at airports in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

In Washington state, “we joked we were having 100-year storms every year,” said Paula Hammond, head of the state’s Department of Transportation.

Joked. Ha ha ha….funny!

If there is any aspect of American domestic policy that should be exempt from partisanship, transportation is it. Everybody needs to get from place to place; nobody likes driving on rotten roads or coping with failing infrastructure. And yet, time and time again, we find that dogmatism stands in the way of a reality-based approach to renewing our country’s crumbling transportation systems.

That the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials re-named their Climate Change Steering Committee into something marginally less likely to set Republican alarm bells ringing is just another demonstration that obvious truths must be carefully disguised to pass muster with conservative politicians. The climate IS changing; our roads, rails, airports, waterways and public transport must be strengthened. This is a fact, not an opinion. When it comes to preparing America’s transportation for the climate crisis, there’s no room on the road for the ideologically-driven.

Warren Senders