Transportation crusade goes mobile

Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES - Building America's Future Co-Chairman and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell testifies before the Joint Economic Committee during a hearing on fixing America’s crumbling infrastructure on Capitol Hill July 24, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Stuck in traffic, boiling mad and ready to let Congress hear about it? There’s an app for that.

Available Tuesday, a new mobile device app will let you tell your member of the House and your senators whenever you see evidence that the roads, bridges and transit systems you use are falling apart.

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“The harassment would amount to a permission slip for Congress to do something about it,” said Edward G. Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor who now co-chairs the transportation infrastructure advocacy group Building America’s Future.

Rendell said he’s testified before congressional committees a dozen times in the past two years, always with the same message.

“The cost of doing nothing is more than the cost of doing something,” he said, pointing to research that shows how much more expensive it will be to repair, replace or enhance roads, bridges and transit systems if they are allowed to continue to deteriorate.

“Everyone agrees,” he said, recalling his recent testimony to the House transportation committee. “One by one they got up and said, ‘I’m a tea party Republican, but I agree that we need to spend money on this.’

“The problem is that nobody has the courage to vote for it,” he said. “We’re trying to use this [app] as a permission to elected officials, a way of saying to them, it’s okay to support investment in infrastructure.”

Called “I’m Stuck,” the BAF app is intended to push transportation issues onto the congressional radar screens that track constituent complaints. Members of the House and Senate usually get weekly tallies — and when there’s a hot issue, daily reports — from their staff on what’s bugging voters in their home district or state.

When an advocacy group with a powerful following invites its members to contact Congress, the numbers click up like the score on a pinball machine: health care, gun control, immigration, Social Security. Transportation? Not so much.

The free BAF app is designed to change that, allowing voters to send an immediate message from almost anywhere when they see bad traffic, transit breakdowns, pothole minefields or rusting bridges.

There’s a options menu — traffic congestion, airport delay, bus is off schedule, train late — and a chance to send a pre-generated message about it or a personal note to the member of Congress.

“All elected officials, including myself when I was a mayor and governor, pay attention to what the public is saying,” Rendell said. “The public understands the infrastructure problem. The states have demonstrated a willingness to do their part. So, we’re calling on Congress to pass a significant infrastructure investment plan.”

 
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