Selling Transportation: Big Challenge, Different Stories

Many different organizations have tried to raise the general public awareness for the current state of the nation’s transportation infrastructure. In March, the American Society of Civil Engineers updated its infrastructure report card, giving the United States a D+ grade and projecting a $3.6 trillion investment need.

While this report cast a net far beyond just roads and bridges, it represents the kind of “things are falling apart and we can’t keep up” messaging that is often used when discussing transportation system investment needs.

Lately a different point of view is gaining traction in transportation circles. Instead of focusing on the need, focus on the role transportation plays in the nation’s economy and our overall quality of life.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is the latest agency to explore this strategy which is built upon messaging more reminiscent of President Reagan’s classic 1984 re-election campaign ad,”It’s Morning in America Again.”

Regardless of which approach you prefer, it is clear that there is power in how we tell the story. The way in which we frame the issue will be a critical factor in whether we realize crumbling bridges or a vibrant, fulfilling future.

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