What did Obama Say and Propose for Transportation?

September 9, 2011 By Larry Ehl
From Transportation Issues Daily

Here’s the transportation section of the President’s speech:

“Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world,” said the President while a sour-faced Speaker John Boehner sat to his right.

“This is inexcusable. Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?

“There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country,”

“And we’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the economy.

“This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America’s largest business organization and America’s largest labor organization. It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away.”

Here are the President’s transportation-related proposals:

Making an Immediate Investment in Our Roads, Rails and Airports: The President’s plan includes $50 billion in immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation, helping to modernize an infrastructure that now receives a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers and putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job. The President’s plan includes investments to improve our airports, support NextGen Air Traffic Modernization efforts, and resources for the TIGER and TIFIA programs, which target competitive dollars to innovative multi-modal infrastructure programs. It will also take special steps to enhance infrastructure-related job training opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups and ensure that small businesses can compete for infrastructure contracts.The President will work administratively to speed infrastructure investment through a recently issued Presidential Memorandum developed with his Jobs Council directing departments and agencies to identify high impact, job-creating infrastructure projects that can be expedited in a transparent manner through outstanding review and permitting processes. The call for greater infrastructure investment has been joined by leaders from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.

Establishing a National Infrastructure Bank:The President is calling for Congress to pass a National Infrastructure Bank capitalized with $10 billion, in order to leverage private and public capital and to invest in a broad range of infrastructure projects of national and regional significance, without earmarks or traditional political influence. The Bank would be based on the model Senators Kerry and Hutchison have championed while building on legislation by Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg and the work of long-time infrastructure bank champions like Rosa DeLauro and the input of the President’s Jobs Council.

Here’s how the infrastructure bank would work: After an initial round of funding (Obama called for $10 billion) the bank would offer loans to construct road, rail, transit, aviation, marine and other projects. Eventually, interest paid on the loans would make the bank self sufficient and able to continue loaning funds.

The bank has long been a White House favorite idea. It has been proposed several times, but the White House has not followed through by providing a detailed legislative proposal.

After the President’s speech, House Transportation Chair John Mica reiterated his opposition to a national infrastructure bank “run by Washington bureaucrats requiring Washington approval and Washington red tape.” He believes state-level banks should be encouraged, noting that 33 states already have such banks.

The road builders association (ARTBA) said

“An infrastructure bank as mentioned by the President is a critical tool to advance large scale, intermodal projects, and is certainly a part of the solution. But, it will take many months to establish and have little instant impact on job creation or in fixing crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems.”


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