Supporting good jobs, modern infrastructure, and sound economic development is just as important to rural areas as it is to urban areas. Yesterday, as part of President Obama's Rural Tour, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and I traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin, not just to deliver that message, but to hear from local residents.
This Administration understands how important it is for folks living in rural parts of America to have safe, reliable, and efficient access to jobs, schools, hospitals, and commercial centers. And we know that rural and urban areas have somewhat different needs, constraints, and practices.
So, as we revitalize transportation around the country, we know that mobility in rural communities will look different from mobility in urban centers. And that's why we went to West Salem--to listen to the folks attending the La Crosse Interstate Fair share their ideas on the challenges they face.
Here's some of what I heard:
- It's getting harder financially to depend on a truck or car for all of a family's transportation needs.
- Rural residents need transit just like city-dwellers do.
- Access to commercial air service is increasingly difficult for rural areas.
- Shippers of grain and other products need better freight options to get rurally produced goods to markets.
Those are challenges the DOT is addressing right now. But, I also heard how pleased local officials are:
- With the more than $375 million for 135 projects they are getting for highway dollars alone;
- With the $15.7 million for airport improvement projects not just in urban Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee, but also in rural Rhinelander;
- With the $3.2 million for Amtrak upgrades in La Crosse and elsewhere;
- With the $34 million in funding provided by the Recovery Act for small transit projects in Wisconsin; and
- That the $23 million they've saved from lower than expected bids can be used to support more projects, to create more jobs.
And, thanks to what I heard today in Wisconsin, we can better tailor future projects to deliver even more value and even greater mobility to America's rural communities.