On Sept. 6, President Barack Obama laid out a promising vision for renewing and expanding U.S. transportation
infrastructure – in a plan that combines a long-term vision for the future with new investments. A significant portion of the new investments would be front-loaded in the first year.
This plan is expected to build on the investments already made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but at the same time the Obama administration hopes to enhance competition, innovation, performance and real analysis while moving away from the earmarks that have tarnished highway funding in the past.
Those at the state level applauded the move on Sept. 7, and many were ready for the challenge.
“We have demonstrated that investing in transportation infrastructure is one of the fastest ways to create and sustain jobs,” John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, said in a statement. “An AASHTO January 2010 survey of states showed 9,800 ready-to-go projects valued at nearly $80 billion. If Congress wants to pass legislation investing in our transportation infrastructure, the states stand ready to put those dollars to work.”
Some of the tangible accomplishments of the President’s plan over the next six years include:
• ROADS: Rebuild 150,000 miles of roads;
• RAILWAYS: Construct and maintain 4,000 miles of rail – enough to go coast-to-coast; and
• RUNWAYS: Rehabilitate or reconstruct 150 miles of runway – while putting in place a
NextGen system that will reduce travel time and delays.
The President’s plan would accomplish this by encouraging Congress to enact a new up-front investment in infrastructure, and at the same time it would give lawmakers time to create a long-term investment program that returns the Highway Trust Fund to solvency.
The long-term framework will include the establishment of a National Infrastructure Bank, the integration of high-speed rail into the surface transportation program, the consolidation of more than 100 different programs that will focus on using performance measurement and what the Administration is calling “race-to-the-top” competitive pressures and fulfilling the President’s livability initiative.
“We applaud President Obama for announcing a bold course to rebuild America’s infrastructure during these difficult economic times,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, co-chair of Building America’s Future. “A reformed, robust transportation infrastructure program will speed needed repairs for our crumbling assets, eliminate time Americans waste in traffic, and establish a true high-speed passenger rail network. We are a nation of innovators and builders, and the President’s announcement will mean that thousands of Americans will go back to work to repair and rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.”