The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is launching a long-term campaign this Thanksgiving aimed at influencing the incoming Obama administration to seriously beef up transportation infrastructure funding.

“It’s important that the American people have a voice in creating the kind of transportation system this nation needs,” said John Horsley, AASHTO’s executive director. “Our goal is to make certain that we find transportation solutions that work with and for communities and support jobs right here at home.”

The effort includes urging holiday travelers to visit a special website AASHTO has set up – dubbed www.IToldThePresident.org – so they can post comments and videos about their transportation concerns.

State departments of transportation (DOTs) across the country are joining in this effort to encourage citizens to post videos about what’s happening in their communities in regards to transportation. AASHTO plans to conduct “person-on-the-street” interviews over the next several months to post to the site as well. Horsley noted that this publicity campaign is planned to continue through the Inauguration in January.

At the heart of the group’s effort is a call for $545 billion worth of transportation infrastructure investment from 2010 through 2015 for highways ($375 billion), transit ($93 billion), freight movement ($42 billion, largely from sources outside the Highway Trust Fund), and intercity passenger rail ($35 billion).

AASHTO is also urging that federal transportation programs go “back to basics” by focusing on areas of national interest – preservation and renewal, interstate commerce, safety, congestion, system reliability, and enhanced environment and quality of life. It also wants to couple this increased funding to national performance standards established to achieve the national goals.

States would self-define targets that would deliver accountability for the investment of federal funds, said Allen Biehler, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and AASHTO’s current president.

“This is not business as usual,” Biehler stressed. “The American public has every right to see what they will get for increased transportation investment. We have to be accountable and we have to move to a performance-based program focused on national goals. That’s where state transportation leaders want to go.”