Happy St. Patrick's Day - the Feast Day created in honor of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland (and the engineers) and in celebration of all things Irish, all things green, and all things lucky.
St. Patrick's Day is a bit of a different holiday. It's not a federal holiday - the mail runs and the banks are open. The celebration date isn't changed - we don't move it to the following Monday to celebrate and get a long weekend.
But even though it isn't a "real" holiday, we Americans love it! In fact, we love it so much that the National Retail Federation expects us to spend around $5.3 billion celebrating this year - the highest amount we've spent on this holiday since data has been recorded.
We love celebrating the holiday - maybe because so many of us have a bit of Irish in us - but also because we love the idea that we could be lucky like St. Patrick. We love the idea that we might actually find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. And we love the idea that we could do what St. Patrick did - overcome an incredible hardship (he was enslaved) - and have a life-changing impact on the people around us.
We love these ideas because they give us hope. And unfortunately - right now, those of us in transportation need to have some hope.
We have significant infrastructure needs in our beautiful Commonwealth. When it comes to our roadways, our state construction program is still in Pause-50. We have a growing backlog in our maintenance program. There are still improvements needed at our airports and at our riverports - and all of our earned toll credits will be used in 2020 and that is going to have a devastating impact on our transit program.
We also know that we don't have the state revenues to fund all the improvements we need now nor do we have the revenue to plan for the improvements we need to move our state forward in the future.
And the story is no different on the federal level. The President's recently released his "Skinny Budget" included some proposed cuts to US DOT programs. Those proposed cuts may impact some of our members - although I urge you to remember that the budget is a proposal and it has a long way to go before it is adopted.
In spite of all that, there is still a reason to have some hope on this St. Patrick's Day - but make sure to temper it with caution.
There has been lots of talk about - and anticipation for - President Trump's trillion dollar infrastructure plan - and how it will be used to rebuild our infrastructure, which received a grade of D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. If there is a trillion dollar plan that is enacted - that is incredible. Perhaps some major mega-projects that impact Kentucky' transportation network and Kentucky's economy will be funded.
My concern is that, sadly, a trillion dollars won't be all we really need. While the trillion dollar plan may fund many mega-projects at major commercial airports, ports, intermodal facilities, on our highways and bridges, and hopefully transit - it won't be all we need to take care of the other projects that aren't so "mega" but have incredible local impact.
Kentucky has 53 General Aviation airports, a rural and urban transit network, 8 operating public ports, 2,600 freight rail miles, and thousands of miles of roads and thousands of bridges that all need improvements. Until we see the plan we won't know for sure, but it's doubtful that the federal plan will fund improvements throughout our state's entire transportation infrastructure.
We will still need state and local investments to take care of our state and local projects - and right now as a state we don't have the revenues to fund those improvements.
We all know that it will take more than just hope or luck to address our current - and future - infrastructure needs.
It's going to take something else often associated with St. Patrick's Day - and that is a pot of gold.
Now let's just hope our elected leaders know where to find it.