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In “Rage,” Bob Woodward highlights President Donald Trump’s appreciation for South Korea’s infrastructure network. Visiting the country amid tensions in the peninsula, the president is quoted as saying, “This is a rich country. Look at these high-rises. Look at the highway infrastructure.”

Yet, a similar sentiment about the United States has been missing recently from the president. Infrastructure policy discussions are not front and center at the White House. And, the recent enactment of a yearlong extension of the country’s premier highway policy law essentially sidelined talks about transportation during the elections.

Ironically, the American Society of Civil Engineers recently announced $4.1 trillion from 2020 through 2039 is needed to sustain the country’s surface transportation. The group observed, “Chronic underinvestment in our surface transportation infrastructure bears severe economic consequences. Subpar roadway conditions and transit that does not meet a state of good repair produces direct costs to businesses and households, as well as to the national economy.”

Mulero

On. Sept. 29, while debating former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump devoted little time to explaining policy. Instead, he opted to interrupt his opponent, as well as offer discursive messages when asked about climate change, health care and to denounce white supremacy. Biden sought to inject policy matters whenever he could. He emphasized potential benefits from 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles, and insisted he would return the country to the international Paris Agreement on climate change.

It is worth remembering the coronavirus pandemic has affected too many people, and the way we have lived this year. The assertion, while obvious, merits a sincere national discussion considering the health status of the president, the first lady, White House staffers, U.S. senators and other officials. The health and well-being of this democracy’s political representatives is essential to realizing policy objectives. Capable management contributes to a preferable economy.

The Week Ahead (all times EDT)

Oct. 7, 9 a.m.: The Surface Transportation Board meets via teleconference for an overview of rail service, infrastructure planning and development, and effective coordination among suppliers.

Oct. 7, 9 p.m.: Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) meet for a debate.

Oct. 8, 10 a.m.: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao participates in a policy discussion hosted by Transport Topics and CQ Roll Call. (Details, register to watch.)

Freight Corridor

A money update courtesy of Forbes.

Election 2020: Pence v Harris

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris

Pence (left) and Harris by Bloomberg News

A task force propped up by the Trump White House to address concerns and challenges from the coronavirus pandemic has been led by the president’s top lieutenant: Vice President Mike Pence. The former Indiana governor, previously a formidable figure in conservative circles while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, took on the role of America’s Donald Trump interpreter. Whenever the president delivered incoherent remarks about the pandemic, Pence was there to offer a coherent clarification. Case in point, after POTUS lambasted the COVID-19 response from blue state governors, the veep sought to calm concerns via assurances and tepid pledges to cooperate across party lines. On infrastructure, the vice president’s record is obviously linked to that of his boss. The White House has fallen short this year on delivering a comprehensive infrastructure policy proposal. And during Trump’s tenure, there’s been no major legislative achievement on infrastructure.

Pence’s challenger, the senator from California — whose fans liken to a female-version of President Barack Obama — has an infrastructure policy portfolio that resembles the party’s platform. On climate change, she endorses severe-weather infrastructure resilience. Enhancing renewable energy opportunities is a priority, and the surface transportation networks of the future would embrace electrification. But Harris is better known on Capitol Hill for her interrogation bona fides. Her talent for probing witnesses was on full display during then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings — for which Trump criticized her.

Pence and Harris are scheduled to debate this week. Vice presidential debates typically land in the dustbin of obscurity. This time it could be different since this has been an untraditional year.

Buzz

For an in-depth history lesson about the transportation agenda during the Eisenhower administration, visit C-SPAN for last month’s U.S. Capitol Historical Society event featuring Eno Center of Transportation’s Jeff Davis.

Favorite Video

Cars and trucks with automation capabilities. The future is now.

Favorite Tweet

The working life in the Trump White House.

Last Word

— Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Sept. 30.

Sen. Patrick Leahy

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics. Jerry Laguerre, a New Jersey-based communications specialist previously with ESPN and the New York Daily News, contributed to this report.

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