Yesterday, I spoke with attendees of the National Infrastructure Forum held by Building America's Future (BAF) about how our Recovery Act projects are putting people back to work, revitalizing our transportation infrastructure, and helping the American economy get back on track.
BAF, a bipartisan coalition, is "dedicated to bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances our nation's prosperity and quality of life." Their goal is simple: to treat infrastructure funding like a national priority.
Building America's Future understands, as does President Obama, that infrastructure investment is crucial for ensuring public safety, maintaining our quality of life, and supporting our economic competitiveness.
As former Congressman Dick Gephardt said at yesterday's forum, "It's not just the jobs created in building the infrastructure; it's the jobs that are supported by the infrastructure. You cannot have a modern economy without competent infrastructure."
Now, when President Obama took the oath of office, not only was the economy shedding 750,000 jobs every month. We also faced a number of infrastructure needs left mostly unaddressed for decades.
Bridges deteriorated. The daily commute grew longer, more congested, and more expensive. Airport delays dragged on and on. Americans were calling for more affordable, more efficient, more sustainable options about how to get from one place to another--not instead of, but in addition to, our state-of-the-art highways.
America’s infrastructure was challenged, and this Administration has been working tirelessly to answer that challenge.
For example, during this Recovery Summer alone, we're repairing more than 30,000 miles of American roadway.
But we're doing more than just fixing what we've already built. A half-century ago, President Eisenhower signed legislation establishing the interstate highway system. Today, President Obama and Vice President Biden have put us in the same place with high speed passenger rail to revitalize cities, attract economic activity, and make America's infrastructure--once again--the envy of the world and a magnet for global businesses.
We also know from our experience with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that infrastructure spending is a great source of job creation. By the end of the year, the Recovery Act will have saved or created over 3.5 million good-paying American jobs--jobs that can't be outsourced abroad.
So the follow-on to the $48 billion in transportation stimulus is a good, long-term transportation bill. We need a blueprint for America's transportation infrastructure and the jobs that infrastructure work will create.
We've had a lot of discussion so far about what that bill will look like and how we're going to fund the investment we need. And that discussion must continue to look at innovative ways to pay for the necessary work ahead.
I look forward to working with Congress, with Building America's Future, and with other stakeholders to transform that discussion into a transportation system we can all be proud of.
This shouldn’t be about politics. This shouldn't be about pitting people on the left against people on the right. This is about whether our economy goes up or goes down. This is about whether we have a transportation system that moves us forward or one that holds us back.