By Clifford F. Lynch
I donít want to sound greedy, but there are some things I really need this
year. Things have been a little tough lately, and Iím hoping you and the elves
can give us some relief.
First of all, maybe you could get the ball rolling on a national
transportation policy. We need to get Congress cracking on a policy that devotes
more attention to our eroding infrastructure than to new bicycle paths and
snowmobile trails. The Interstate Highway System is not keeping pace with
traffic growth; and if we believe the Federal Highway Administration, truck
miles are going to double by 2020. That wonít be pretty.
The problemís not just with the highways. Rail traffic has also surged, and
although the railroads will spend $8 billion this year to improve their
infrastructure, thatís nowhere near enough to put them where they need to be.
(Did you know it costs between $6 million and $10 million to build a mile of
track?) They need some government help. And I guess I donít need to tell you
about the air traffic control system. I know I wouldnít want to be driving a
sleigh around controlled by equipment as old as ours.
We also need some help figuring out our role in the global economy. Iím
sure you remember the media firestorm that erupted when Dubai Ports World bought
P&O, which operated cargo terminals at several U.S. ports. Obviously, the
protesters didnít realize that Dubai already operated more than 40 ports
around the world. If theyíre intent on doing us some harm, they probably wonít
initiate it in Baltimore. If weíre going to participate in the global economy,
we have to learn to play well with others. Suppose China gets mad at us, and
Wal-Mart quits selling imported products Ė I shudder to think about it. We
need some leadership on this one.
I donít know how you feel about working in foreign countries, but those
folks down in Panama could use some help. I guess you know they voted to spend
$5 billion to build a third set of locks wide enough to handle the large ships.
The problem is, it wonít be finished until 2015. By then, we could have
container ships trying to sail up the Chattahoochee River because of the port
congestion. Maybe you could come up with an interim plan to help ease the
congestion at Long Beach and the other West Coast ports. And while youíre at
it, you might come up with a scheme for the United States to help Nicaragua
build a second canal. Having one of anything this important is not a good idea.
While youíre in Washington, I would appreciate your dropping in on the
Homeland Security group. Iím no security expert, but to my untrained eye,
somethingís wrong when they confiscate my brand new tube of toothpaste at the
airport, yet inspect only 5 percent of all containers coming into the country.
To put it in perspective, that means that over 6 million are coming right on in
without inspection. This is not an easy problem to solve, but I bet you can come
up with something.
Thanks, by the way, for your help on the motor carrier capacity problem I
wrote you about last year. Capacity seems to be easing up, and it looks as if we
might be moving back toward a transportation buyersí market. Fuel costs have
dropped too, which has helped a lot.
As always, thanks, and have a very Merry Christmas. And just one more
question: you are exempt from the hours of service rules, arenít you?
Clifford F. Lynch