I grew up in a small, rural town in Southeast Kentucky. Back in the 80's, my little town included a Winn-Dixie, TG&Y, the Courthouse, the bank, a few attorneys, and some doctor's offices. If you wanted or needed anything else, you traveled the 60 or so miles on I-75 to Lexington to visit larger shopping centers and get whatever it was you needed, but you didn't do that too often.
In the past 30 or so years, my small town has changed. We've gotten big box retailers, car dealers, and even several chain restaurants.
Access to all those retail outlets has encouraged people from even smaller surrounding areas to come to my hometown to shop, eat, and spend their money. Everyone has gotten used to, and seems to enjoy, all the access they have to the goods and services they can get in my hometown. It's been good for the local economy, and by and large, good for the residents.
My town also has access to pretty good internet service, so if you can't find what you need at the local big box, you can just go online and order it on Amazon or other retails stores. I'm sure, there are still regular trips to Lexington, to shop, see the doctor, or go to a ball game.
These days everyone, even in my small hometown, has gotten used to having quick access to what they need when they need it. And if they can't buy it locally, they just order it online and it will be there the next day.
We can all get what we want when we want it.
The problem is, that most of us never give a second thought to the rail line that was used to bring new cars to the dealership, to the airport that was used for the quick delivery of the medicine, to the port that was used to move all the grain used in food production, to the highway network that was used to move the toothpaste, shampoo, and other toiletries, or to the transit system that moves thousands of Kentucky workers to the distribution centers to process the millions of online orders.
I doubt a moment is spent thinking about any one of those modes of transportation - in my small town or in any other location in this country - when it comes to getting what we need when we want it.
I don't think I'm alone in my assumption.
Earlier this week, I was in DC at the American Road and Transportation Builder's Transportation State and Local Transportation Investments Advocacy Council, followed by a quick day trip to Owensboro to welcome the U.S. Maritime Administrator to the KBT Waterways Committee. During both of those events, we discussed the fact that the general public is still not truly aware of the important role the transportation network plays in everyone's life.
And I mean - EVERYONE.
Our transportation network gets groceries to the grocery store, clothes to retailers, medicines to pharmacies, petroleum products to gas stations, and Amazon orders to homes. Our roads, bridges, buses, airports, ports, and rail lines move the majority of the items we all depend on everyday. And yet, most of us take it for granted.
So, the next time you run to Kroger on your local roads to pick up your groceries, take a minute to think about how easy it was to make that trip. When your friend talks about their new foreign car, remind them how that car traveled here. When you child orders new shoes online, encourage them to think about the trip those shoes took before they got to your door - in most cases the next day.
Maybe then we'll all have a little more appreciation for the transportation network we have and we'll understand why we need to improve and maintain it.