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The Future of the Interstate An Interview with Gene McCormick

Posted: 2/19/2007

Addressing topics such as the future of the gas tax and the issue of "earmarked" projects, Gene McCormick, chairman of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, talks about the future of the Interstate Highway System.

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Gene McCormick
Chairman of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, Senior vice president of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas

At the 50th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System, Gene McCormick finds himself in one of the more prominent leadership positions within the transportation construction industry.

The senior vice president of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas in Naples, Fla., is currently serving as chairman of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, arguably the top organization advocating for transportation contractors, designers and other industry members.

McCormick has certainly earned his current leadership position. He was previously with the Illinois Department of Transportation for 25 years, where he ultimately served as deputy transportation secretary. Also, prior to joining Parsons Brinckerhoff, he served as deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration from 1989 to 1993.

Though the industry was pleased with the recent reauthorization of the federal transportation program, McCormick and others felt that bill didnt adequately address long-term funding issues. For example, ARTBA estimates that the Highway Trust Fund could approach a zero balance by 2009 around the time of the next reauthorization effort.

SAFETEA-LU provides a sound foundation for the future, but certainly leaves key questions and issues open for the future, McCormick said. Its a key foundation, but on the other hand it leaves certain unanswered questions that will be challenges for the future.

From this top position, McCormick doesnt like what he sees.

We see the condition of the Interstate system continuing to deteriorate, particularly from a demand/congestion standpoint, and to a lesser degree from a purely preservation/maintenance standpoint, he said. Preserving and expanding that Interstate system is absolutely key to our future. Nearly 90 percent of freight movement in the country is on highways, with a predominant share of that on Interstate. Almost 90 percent of commuters use highways and the Interstate system to a large degree. So we must protect that past investment in the Interstate system, but we need to expand the systems capacity to address clearly congested corridors.

As a result, McCormick sees the next reauthorization effort which should begin moving forward in 2009 as the most critical one in 50 years.

It is by far the most important turning point since the creation of the Interstate system 50 years ago, McCormick said. It is clear to me that more of the same will not serve our countrys long-term interests. But Im optimistic that we can create a new vision and then implement that vision in a way that serves the interests of our country.

From McGraw-Hill Construction
Editor & Host: Scott Judy
Editor, Southeast Construction

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