It was an honor to stand yesterday at the Brookings Institution podium two days after President Obama outlined the Administration's efforts to put Americans back to work while rebuilding the nation's infrastructure.
I was speaking to an audience gathered for the Bernard L. Schwartz Forum on US Competitiveness, "a discussion on the connection between infrastructure investments and economic growth." For me, that connection has been made obvious by DOT's successful experience with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
From DOT’s perspective, this program has been enormously successful.
- $32 billion out the door
- 11,000 projects so far, with over 7,100 of those under way, all of which provide jobs while making long-term investments in our infrastructure.
- $16 billion more ready to be put to work
So next year, as the money keeps rolling out to states, thousands of new transportation projects will come on line, including major highway projects that will keep a lot of people employed for quite a while.
Targeted investments like these are exactly what our economy needs now to continue gaining strength. As President Obama said at the Brookings podium:
"These projects often take time, and will therefore create jobs over time. The need for jobs will last beyond next year and the benefits of these investments will last years beyond that. Adding to this initiative to rebuild America's infrastructure is the right thing to do."
And it’s what hard-working Americans like Rhea Mayolo need to achieve economic security.
Ms. Mayolo, a divorced mother of three living in Maryland, barely made ends meet on public assistance while working two jobs as a waitress and a bookkeeper.
Today, this former waitress is off public assistance and working full-time as a construction inspector. Her income has gone up. She’s acquired a new set of valued professional skills. And she’s setting a great example for her children.
There are many more good-news stories waiting in the wings. So we'll keep funding transportation projects that create jobs and generate factory orders immediately.
The nation's transportation planners see that the Recovery Act points the way forward as we prepare for Congressional reauthorization of American surface transportation.
For example, David Daddio notes upon leaving the Brookings forum:
"I was struck by the enormity of the task before the administration. Not only do they have to reverse the country’s dire economic situation, they have a once-in-fifty-year chance to fundamentally reform the nation’s infrastructure investments towards economically rational, more environmentally sustainable outcomes."
You know, the America we know today simply would not exist without the great railroads and canals built in the 19th century, and the superhighways and airports built in the 20th.
So, let’s be inspired by that past as we plan for the future. The better we work together–- government and industry, management and labor, Republican and Democrat-–the faster we get this country moving again.