Many of us looked forward to the end of 2020 in hopes that turning a symbolic corner would bring real relief for all that ails us, but of course nothing is ever that simple. We still have plenty to overcome.
Having acknowledged that fact, there's also some brightening on the horizon in nearly every sense. On the simplest level, even though there are plenty of rainy days ahead, the days are getting longer and the earliest daffodils and crocuses will bloom this month. On a pure caveman level, hardly anything is more welcome than these first hints of spring.
Just as more rain is certain, so too are more COVID-19 infections and political turmoil. Never has it been more important to rigorously follow safety guidelines. Vaccinations are underway and should gradually snuff out the pandemic as 2021 moves forward, but you don't want one of your loved ones to be among the last victims to die in this horrible war against an insidious virus. Nor do we want anyone to suffer the lingering aftereffects of the coronavirus. Stay safe, get the shot as soon as possible, and be around for the return to normal.
The incoming Biden administration is certain to produce an extensive economic stimulus package that will help bandage financial wounds suffered because of COVID-related restrictions. This is very welcome.
Of potentially greater importance, there's a good chance that extensive spending will be authorized on the nation's infrastructure. It was just such a program that a decade ago brought tens of millions of dollars to thoroughly renovate the Astoria-Megler Bridge — work that might have otherwise required reimposition of a toll.
Infrastructure funding, along with separate funding to address climate change, will bring large benefits, but these won't be evenly parceled out. States and regions with well-formulated proposals tailored to align with national priorities will have the best chance to obtain federal help. What might this include? A few possibilities:
• Implementing community-wide systems to tap into new satellite-based broadband internet service.
• Designing carbon-sequestration strategies that preserve and enhance publicly owned forests.
• Advancing 21st century transportation plans, including automated mass transit between the coast and population centers.
• Preparing for sea level rise by relocating and adapting critical public assets.
• Funding multipurpose vertical-evacuation structures in tsunami-prone areas.
As in the 1930s when federal spending brought us the Pacific Northwest hydropower system, and interstate highways in the 1950s, this could be a once-in-a-generation chance to go big and create assets that will pay dividends far into the future. Now is the time to get busy deciding what has the greatest support and getting our congressional delegations enlisted in making our case in Washington, D.C.