This week I attended the 21st Century Transportation Committee meeting. This twenty-four member committee was appointed by Governor Mike Easley, Speaker of the House Joe Hackney and Senate Pro Tempore Marc Basnight to address the growing concerns regarding infrastructure in North Carolina. It was also created to avoid calling a special session on transportation and infrastructure. The first meeting was a roll out of the responsibilities this committee will be charged with. These responsibilities include:
*researching traditional and non traditional funding sources
*looking at innovative technology to improve the transportation system
*adequately funding road construction
*analyzing the safety of current roads and bridges
*examining of the role of ports and mass transits
*reviewing public transportation needs.
Affordable, reliable, and accessible transportation options are critical to the success of integrating people with disabilities into our communities. It is not enough to address these pressing concerns on infrastructure without including in the discussion how we make transportation options fully accessible to our growing aging and disability community. Our state has set forth a mandate, through the DD/MH/SAS System Reform, that people with disabilities have the right to live where they choose, work where they chose, and have person centered options. If we are truly to commit to the success of this mandate we can not ignore the need for accessible transportation options. The discussion of accessible, affordable, and reliable transportation must also include a plan for our rural communities.
But transportation discussions are always complicated. The federal government continues to reduce funding, and the states are forced to fill in the gaps at great expense. But to people with disabilities, the cost of inaccessible transportation is even greater when it means the inability to secure an accessible home or employment. As a result of poor planning, the person with a disability is forced back into non inclusive environment. It is time for our leaders to build an accessible transportation system statewide.