Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Man Said No

With a concept similar to what state DOTs have dealt with for the past couple of years, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made a decision this week. He decided not to move forward with the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project.

ARC was a large, multi-billion-dollar rail tunnel project that would move commuters from New York to New Jersey and back again. The published goal was to reduce congestion.

While that’s a nice goal, it left me with a few questions concerning its proposed drop-off points. I felt sympathy for the taxpayers who wanted New York’s DOT to foot a commensurate amount of the bill with New York’s benefits from the project, and with those who wanted more important stops added to the train’s destination. It looked as though political haggling would then delay a project that the higher-ups needed to ramrod through right away.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who seems more interested in where we have our hands when we’re driving than where we’ll get funding for making roads safer, made a special plea to Governor Christie earlier in October to keep the project alive. You see, the feds were only paying part of the bill, yet seemed to hang their political hats on the project’s success.

According to the Oct. 27 post on bemoaning Christie’s economic decision and giving LaHood yet another place to whine, “FTA does not require cash commitments to deal with such contingencies, and only requires that a project sponsor identify a non-Federal funding stream that could be called upon to cover contingency costs.”

Apparently, Christie didn’t want to search for additional funding streams. He didn’t want the offered loan from the USDOT Railroad and Rehabilitation Improvement Financing program. He didn’t want to set up a public-private partnership assuming some of the risk.

I wonder if he figured he’d be looking for streams to fund the drying federal well. Think about it. If you’re counting on funds from an unreliable national trough, why move forward with a $9 billion-plus project that someone has already said might creep over the $10 billion mark if a few small bits and pieces go awry?

So Governor Christie has made a sound business decision based on what all 50 states have been basing infrastructure decisions on for the past couple of years: lack of long-term funding reliability from the top. Where’s the reauthorization plan to back up the infrastructure plan LaHood wants Christie to sign off on? Ain’t seen it yet.

Let’s get a long-term authorization plan for transportation infrastructure in place before we badmouth the planners for not planning ahead. The project that Christie had no confidence in could have reduced congestion. It could have provided jobs and stimulated the economy exponentially because that’s what construction projects do. But construction projects don’t materialize out of thin air. They require reliable funding sources. I think Governor Christie gets that.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

AP Website Delivers the How-to Industry Resource You’ve Been Waiting For

(from the October 2010 Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

Let’s face it: when creative minds get together, they tend to overproduce a project. I think that’s one of the reasons people roll their eyes when you suggest forming a committee to work on something. Committees tend to slow progress. For AsphaltPro magazine, we’ve been working on a creative project off and on for three years—our website. Here’s where the committee comes in.

The staff at AsphaltPro is more than the Chris Harrison-Sally Shoemaker-Sandy Lender team that you’ve known for years and met at tradeshows and state association meetings. While the three of us have our experience in publishing and the asphalt industry to recommend us for building a first-class asphalt business website, we also have our creative sides that recommend us for building something aesthetically pleasing.

Then we have two artists in our headquarters office who can build, create and design in their sleep! Combined, the staff has 62 years in magazine publishing (more than 33 of it specifically in the asphalt industry). That’s a lot of creative juices. Add in a whole company in our headquarters town that designs websites for a living and I think you get the picture.

I don’t mind telling you that the team has pulled out a lot of hair over the website project. We wanted something that looked full, yet clean and easy to navigate. We wanted something filled with content and useful information, yet quick to load. We wanted something that complemented the print magazine, yet didn’t compete with it and certainly wasn’t redundant. I can’t tell you how annoyed I get with magazine sites that merely regurgitate their print information. Why would I pay for one when the other is free? Why would I support the murder of innocent trees to have a magazine sent to my home if the editor’s just going to put the information up on a website a week or two after it arrives? That’s stupid and irresponsible. I have no patience for it.

Creative minds want to build something superior to that.

So we did.

I present to you:

Of course there are departments and articles that bear regurgitation. But it doesn’t take an outside expert to tell us that magazine readers and web readers tolerate different styles. We’ve edited our content for the web to make it user-friendly. When you visit, you’re not going to be stuck in front of a monitor trying to read tiny type in magazine format. No…I give classes on website and blog development and intelligent online social media use. I’ll be presenting this kind of marketing information at CONEXPO-CON/AGG in March to assist contractors and producers to use their online presence effectively.

We know what we’re doing at AsphaltPro not just in the asphalt arena, not just in the magazine publishing arena, but also in the website presentation arena. Now we’re offering a pleasing, informative, useful website to the masses. I invite you to visit often for updates and information that impacts your bottom line. Then be sure to send me a note about the site’s efficacy. Let me know what else we can add to the site or to this blog to enhance your business.
Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender (sandy @ theasphaltpro dot com)

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