- Published on Monday, 21 January 2013 08:48
- Written by Matthew W. Elious, MSc, Post Grad Dipl. Reprinted Version From 2006
In transportation engineering jargon, roads are referred to as Arterials – analogous to the function of arteries in the human body.
The dictionary in fact has two definitions of 'arteries' as 1) muscular elastic tubes that form a branching system and that carry blood away from the heart to the cells, tissues and organs of the body and analogously 2) a major route of transportation into which local routes flow.
Just as arteries are the bloodline for transporting blood to sustain life, health and vitality of the human body, so is it that Arterials (roads) are the bloodline for sustaining the economic life of a country, promote the health and vitality of a nation's economic activity and development.
Steven Covey reminds us in his bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to distinguish between 'urgent' matters and 'important' matters. Urgent matters need our immediate attention and must be resolved and controlled to allow us to move on to important matters. Nevertheless, it is the discipline of a person to persistently attend to important matters that will determine the level and value of his achievements in life.
Today, Liberia's immediate attention is drawn to urgent matters such as securing peace, providing basic light and water services, blunting the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and opening schools. These urgent matters need our immediate attention and must be addressed. Ultimately, however, the Country must move on to important matters that spur economic growth and activity for the short term and for the long term. I submit to you that the development of the nation's “Transportation System” – primarily roads – is an 'important' and necessary requirement to spurring economic growth both in the short term and in the long term.
It should not be difficult to grasp that a viable national roadway system will, for example:
1) promote commerce by facilitating the movement of goods and services beyond the Monrovia area.
2) promote the development of land for real estate, exploration and agriculture use,
3) promote the development and distribution of health services nationwide,
4) promote the construction and distribution of education services nationwide,
5) promote tourism and quality of life recreational activities,
6) improve a - practically non-existent - national mail delivery system,
7) promote a web of national union and patriotic exuberance and
8) improve national defense and security activities.
This but enumerates just a few of the benefits and by-product of a sustainable national roadway system
Historical Examples to Follow
While of course a Transportation System connotes an intermodal system of land, air and water, historical approaches in developed countries such as the Unites States have given priority to intermodal 'surface' systems of transportation such as roads and railways.
Students of transportation history in the U.S. – a model of an economically accomplished and developed country – will note that the first official act of congress proposed by Thomas Jefferson in 1806 was the federal highway program- the National Road as an early recognition that roads were a necessary requirement for promoting commerce and economic growth.
In 1933, Franklin D. Rooselvelt signed the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act to emphasize and promote the use of railroads as an alternative and complementary mode of surface transportation.
On October 15, 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson created the Department of Transportation to oversee an integrated national transportation system with the vision to “move anyone and anything, anywhere, anytime, on time!” In signing this Act of the U.S. Congress, President Lyndon Johnson made this statement: “The Act which I sign today is the most important transportation legislation of our time … It is one of the essential building blocks in our preparation for the future … Transportation has truly emerged as a basic force in our society, its progress must be accelerated so that the quality of our life can be improved.”
Experience and Testimony
Anyone who has visited or lived in the U.S. and traveled the roads can attest to seeing 18-wheeler trucks moving goods and produces from warehouses and suppliers to supermarkets, shopping centers and to shipping docks as an example.
As an employee (Technical and Project Manager) of a fortune 500 company in the U.S., I have personally participated in numerous projects - competitively won by my company – that were funded directly or indirectly by transportation bills approved by legislation within a recurring Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of the U.S. Congress. I have come to experience and appreciate the importance attached to transportation development and maintenance as a national commitment for economic growth and job creation in the U.S. and do pray and hope that my home country (Liberia) adopts a similar economic model of transportation legislation as a national acknowledgment of promoting surface transportation development (especially roads) as an important pillar for economic growth, economic activity and job creation.
Private Sector Involvement
The approach used by most states in the U.S. is that the Department of Transportation (DOT) defines short-term and long-term projects and secures funding through budget appropriation of the legislature and the executive branch then private-sector firms like my company would respond to Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotations (RFQ) to perform the project based on the requirements and technical specifications defined within the RFP or RFQ. The projects are NOT performed by the DOT but by a private-sector firm. This approach encourages economic activity in the private sector, promotes efficiency and accountability and transfers the activity of employment growth from less efficient bureaucratic government institutions to private-sector business entities.
In Liberia, likewise, the task of a Ministry such as Transportation or Public Works would be to define national project needs, lobby and allocate funding through the legislature and/or donors, prepare RFP's and RFQ's that define the desired end-product and define standards and technical specifications for executing the project to produce the desired end-product.
Back on Track
In conclusion, history informs us that the importance of an Intermodal Surface Transportation System (mainly roads) to spur economic activity and economic growth cannot be overemphasized. Roads, Roads, Roads must be seen as the bloodline to Liberia's economic activity, economic growth and development. But as a way of promoting good governance and maximizing the purchasing power of finite budgets, the private/public sector collaborative approach to performing projects must be encouraged as the norm.
About the Author
Mr. Matthew W. Elious heads the Geospatial/GIS group of his firm, M A Engineering Consultants, Inc. He holds the equivalent of a double master in Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) to support Civil Engineering, Transportation, Geotechnical and GIS projects. He holds a Post graduate Diploma in Aerial Surveys and Earth Science from ITC, Holland (1979) and an M.S. degree in Geodetic Science and Analytical Photogrammetry from The Ohio State University (1982). Mr. Elious is also a 1973 graduate of the University of Liberia with a B.S. degree in Mathematics with minor in Physics.