Washington, we have gridlock

"Houston, we have a problem."

In reading The Sun's recent editorial on transportation funding, ("Congress creates a transportation time bomb," Sept. 6), I was reminded of Astronaut Jim Lovell's famous words during the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission of 1970. At that time, a team of men and women from Mission Control worked under tight deadlines to undertake a historic rescue. Members of Congress need to take similar action today by approving a transportation funding package to keep our economy and infrastructure from further decay. In 1970, the country faced a mechanical failure. In 2011 it is a failure to act.

Congress faces a hard deadline of Sept. 30 to extend the federal transportation program. Failure to do so could have a devastating impact on mobility and the safety of the traveling public. Forty years ago immediate action was necessary to ensure the safety of three American astronauts, and the same sense of urgency is necessary today to ensure the safety of millions. Once the immediate crisis is averted, Congress can continue the real work of developing a new, long-term transportation bill that will help address 21st century transportation needs.

Every business sector depends on a safe and efficient transportation system. In Maryland, transportation is the backbone of our economic well-being. Delaying significant investment and necessary program reforms until the next Congress will not benefit our state, the nation's economy, safety or quality of life. Action is needed now so that Maryland's Department of Transportation, which has a funding crisis of its own, can proceed with planned and proposed capital improvement projects with greater certainty.

Transportation has traditionally been a bipartisan issue, and despite the current partisan gridlock in Congress, this is not the time to break tradition. All Americans, regardless of political affiliation, benefit from better and safer roads and more convenient transportation choices.

America's infrastructure, once recognized as a symbol of our nation's prosperity and ingenuity, is no longer the envy of the world. It's time to act to ensure that our transportation system — the network of roads, bridges, and transit — can meet the challenges of the 21st century and make America stronger.

Washington, we have a problem. Due to the gravity of this situation and considering the peril Americans face as a result of our deteriorating transportation infrastructure, failure to act is not an option.

Ragina C. Averella, Towson

The writer is manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

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