Last Friday was my mother's birthday. So last Saturday, like any good daughter, I loaded the kids in the car and went to visit the family farm for a quick birthday celebration.
As much as I enjoy my time at the farm, I dread the trip. It takes two hours on the highway - if I'm lucky. And those two hours aren't easy - 64 is riddled with potholes and 75 tends to STOP as it narrows from 6 lanes to 4 lanes just south of Berea.
Then, once I get to the town closest to my destination, I have another 30 minute drive on some state maintained highways (which are in pretty good shape). But then there is that last leg of the trip - the 2 miles of 1.5 lane road that is hard to find and even harder to drive across. The years have taken a toll on our little road, leaving ever deepening potholes and a shrinking shoulder on one side. It seems better suited for ATV use than for a standard vehicle.
But last Saturday my mother got a BIG birthday present.
After many, many, many years - the road I grew up on was resurfaced.
My parents were so excited - and they weren't alone. From phone calls to facebook posts, the whole community - not just the people who presently live or have ever lived on our road - couldn't stop talking about how glad they were that the work was done.
See - the little 1.5 lane road that I grew up serves that entire community. It is a "cut-through" for people going to cities like Manchester, London, Corbin, or Barbourville to work in the prison, local factories, the school system, the hospitals - or to brick houses like my dad did for years.
They all depend on that rural road for the same reason everyone else depends on all of our roads - access. Access to school, work, health care, church, retail, and any other basic human service.
Our entire community needed that little road to be maintained and improved - and they aren't alone in that need. Each and every mile of our more than 80,000 miles of roadway in Kentucky needs continued maintenance and improvements so all of our communities have the safe access they depend on daily. But it takes funding to do that - and at 80,000 center line miles, it takes a lot of funding.
I think I say this nearly every week - we don't have enough funding to do what we need to do. If we did, it wouldn't take years upon years to resurface all the roads that need resurfacing - from the little road I grew up on to Shelbyville Road near the KBT office.
And our funding challenges don't stop with our roads - our airports need improvements on their runways, our riverports need improvements to provide better access from the water and the roads, our railroads need improvements on their lines to be able safely serve their customers, and our transit system is in dire need of funding to continue serving the millions of Kentuckians who depend on it to get to work or school.
We've done a lot in Kentucky to move this state forward - but we to need to do more to truly compete in the global marketplace. We can't talk about growing our manufacturing industry, our education system, our workforce, or our mining industry without also talking about maintaining and improving our transportation network. After all, our airports, railroads, river ports, transit network, and our roads link our citizens to the jobs and job training and they link our manufacturing, agricultural, and mining industries to the rest of the world.
We just have to make sure the link we provide, no matter how small, is as safe, dependable, efficient, and as adequately funded as it can be.