CASE STUDY: Solving the Pennsylvania Highway Funding Crisis
After a nearly eight year effort of mustering support for a transportation funding solution, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a bipartisan, multimodal measure to increase transportation funding by $2.3 billion per year.
Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, a statewide association representing the highway construction industry, saw the funding crisis coming long before the bridge collapsed onto Interstate 70 in Washington County in 2005 – a precursor to the Minneapolis tragedy nearly two years later. Drumming up public support when most Americans already feel over-taxed and most policymakers fear that raising taxes or user fees will result in voter backlash is, to say the least, a challenge.
But the client kept its focus and made steady progress, both in terms of the public’s awareness and attitudes, and the willingness of lawmakers to address the issue. The communication and outreach efforts included:
Extensive use of qualitative and quantitative research to track public perceptions and develop and refine messages.
The care and feeding of a statewide list of editorial writers and transportation beat reporters, as well as the Statehouse press corps.
Editorial board briefings and guest column submissions.
The staging of special events that garnered attention for this very important public policy issue.
Securing statewide broadcast media opportunities through the Pennsylvania Cable Network, Pennsylvania Newsmakers, Behind the Headlines and other public affairs venues.
Capitalizing on catastrophic bridge and highway failures, such as the Washington County incident, the near-collapse of the Birmingham Bridge in Pittsburgh and the emergency closing of I-95 in Philadelphia for several days.
Ramping up grassroots support via letters, e-mails, faxes, phone calls and face-to-face meetings between elected officials and their constituents.
Use of targeted ads and social media networks.
Developing the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition, whose members included farm organizations, municipalities, labor unions, chambers of commerce, the trucking industry, health care groups, environmental and land-use advocates, bicycle and pedestrian aficionados and highway-user organizations.
Despite the public policy victory, the coalition’s work is not complete. It immediately turned its attention toward the federal level, where Congress is working on a new rationing formula for distributing transportation funding to the states.
Call us or send us an email to find out how our experience can help you advance a transportation funding solution in your state.
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