Chris Benge: Maintaining our infrastructure is the American way

I love American history, and try to soak up as much as I can by reading about it and exploring historical sites whenever an opportunity arises. When I travel to the Washington, D.C., area, I usually stay an additional day and travel the area of our country’s roots. On a recent trip I headed to Sharpsburg, Maryland, where the famous battle of Antietam was fought. This was my second visit to the site, and after touring the battlefield, I drove a few more miles to the Potomac River.

I stumbled upon a real historic gem, the remnants of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, also known as the C&O Canal. The project began in 1828 and was completed in 1850, operating until 1924. The canal, which also included a towpath to allow teams of mules to pull boats full of cargo, extends from the Georgetown area in Washington to Cumberland, Maryland. It is 184.5 miles long and consists of 74 locks and seven dams. The canal was originally planned to go all the way to Pittsburgh, which would have connected the nation’s capital to the Ohio River, and on to the Western frontier.

Beyond just the pure historical value visiting a place like this brings, it instills a lot of pride in the display of American ingenuity, grit and determination. We are reminded of what helped our country be the strong economic power that it has become. We have built an incredible transportation network, but the challenge ahead of us is to maintain it. At the federal level, finding a secure and stable revenue source to maintain highways has been elusive, and the possibility that this source of funding will continue to decrease is real. Fortunately, in Oklahoma we have committed funds over the last several years to rebuild and maintain our roads and bridges. Most recently, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature agreed on measures to address structurally deficient bridges that will improve our transportation system, and pay dividends to the state for years to come.

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