A transportation powerhouse based in Virginia is trying to ride into the presidential contest with a nationwide television advertising campaign.
Norfolk Southern is trying to spark a dialogue around the question of how to keep the nation's economy and infrastructure growing. The advertisement shows a boy falling asleep in his bedroom, while his toys come to life, creating a thriving city that his train set races around.
Norfolk Southern is launching the ad to coincide with the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The railroad is trying to focus more attention on the benefits of freight rail and all infrastructure investments.
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it will take $2.2 trillion over 5 years to modernize all infrastructures, from levees and dams to highways and bridges. The federal government's primary funding source for transportation projects is the gas tax, but there appears little chance it will be raised.
Gas tax revenues and receipts have been lagging behind what we want to spend on transportation at the federal level.
Rachel MacCleery, a transportation expert at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, says there doesn't appear to be any desire to increase the gas tax, which was last raised in 1993.
The Obama administration, early in the administration, has taken the gas tax off the table.
With funding for projects tight, states like Virginia are turning to public private partnerships to build major highways, to be paid for by charging tolls.
"One of the points Norfolk Southern likes to make is that they invest in their own infrastructure and maintain their own infrastructure," says Jim Lansbury, creative director at Norfolk Southern's ad agency, RP3. "Something like 40 percent of every dollar goes into maintaining their railroads and right of way. Airlines don't build airports and trucking companies don't build highways."