County government has been at the center of American civic life for more than 350 years.
Counties help preserve and protect the qualities that make our urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods special. Counties create a climate for business, for families, and for the institutions we all care about--from libraries and schools to vibrant downtown streets and safe rural roads.
County officials have their ears to the ground because they govern where people live. And that's why I was pleased to address the National Association of Counties on Sunday.
Now, transportation plays a major role in creating the kinds of counties people want to live in; transportation policy can reduce dependence on private vehicles and foreign oil and promote a cleaner environment.
But for too long, federal policy has encouraged sprawl and congestion and pollution, rather than quality public transportation and smart, sustainable development. We intend to change that.
And for too long, federal transportation spending has mainly been driven by rigid formulas that divide highways from subways and commuter rail from ferries. We intend to change that.
The good news is, we have a model for this in the $1.5 billion discretionary TIGER grant program funded through the Recovery Act.
Right now, counties and cities have only a modest say in how DOT dollars are spent. Down the line, we'll build on programs like our TIGER grants and transform the way DOT operates, with more direct relationships between our Department and local governments. Then we’d fund them directly.
We think this will empower counties and cities and other stakeholders to make their priorities a reality. We think this will help us connect people and goods with the places they need to go, whether by plane, train, car, truck, bus, bicycle, or their own two feet.
What’s important here isn’t the size of a project or a jurisdiction; it’s whether we invest in transportation projects that enhance our quality of life and help us compete economically.
The President and I are committed to doing just that.