There were wonky, late night transportation receptions--invite only--at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions that blanketed the political news over the last two weeks. I cover transportation and I wasn't at either one of them. When I surfaced from my convention travels and odd stories about delegates, I wondered what I had missed.
I missed nothing. The word "infrastructure" and "transportation" were absent from both President Obama's and Republican nominee Mitt Romney's convention-capping speeches. Obama once mentioned "rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways." Romney didn't mention them at all. The closest we got to a conversation about transportation from the convention podiums were in references to the auto bailout, either as a taxpayer waste or a financial savior, depending on the point of view.
The political platforms were better. They stated each party's point of view on infrastructure, but they offered no surprises. There was very little debate about any of the points during the platform drafting sessions. The Republican platform calls for public-private partnerships and more responsibility from states. It stops short of saying the highway trust fund is sufficient to fund our transportation needs, as some Republicans believe, but it warns of "hard choices" on budgeting.
The Democratic platform calls for immediate investment in roads, highways, and bridges, as President Obama has sought every year since he took office. It also calls for an "infrastructure bank" that will prioritize projects that offer the most bang for the buck.
That's a pretty poor outing for an issue that is generally bipartisan and popular. Transportation is also an area where investments clearly would boost job growth and strengthen the country's economy for the long haul. Why doesn't anyone care? Did the highway bill talks sap everyone's strength? What would make for memorable transportation talking points during this election? Does the issue resonate at all with the public? Or does it make more sense to focus advocacy efforts away from the spotlight and on the key decision-makers? Where's the love?