Last week the US Conference of Mayors gathered in Washington, DC, "to discuss national policy issues critical to the progress of American cities." And the number one item on their agenda was transportation.
Why transportation? Because 21st century economies need 21st century infrastructure to move goods and people safely and efficiently where they need to go. Fortunately, we have a President who understands how important that infrastructure is.
When President Obama came into office, America's mayors were facing a number of infrastructure challenges that had lingered unaddressed for decades:
- Bridges had deteriorated;
- Daily commutes grew longer, more congested, and more expensive; and
- Airport delays dragged on and on.
Now, I’ve been in public service for more than three decades. And I have never seen an administration take on more problems, more effectively, than the one in which I’m honored to serve today.
Because of the Recovery Act, we’ve been able to put Americans back to work rebuilding our urban and rural infrastructure through major investments not only in roadways, railways, and runways. With our discretionary funds, we’ve also been able to help communities build many unique, forward-thinking transportation projects that provide people with more flexible, affordable and environmentally sustainable options about how they get around.
We're restoring transit facilities and upgrading buses. We're taking the needs of cyclists and pedestrians into account like never before. We're making an $8 billion down payment on high speed rail, a long overdue investment that will bring America's transportation system up to par with that of European and Asian nations.
And we've introduced TIGER grants to fund innovative, multi-modal projects that achieve several objectives at the same time. Important objectives like safety, competiveness, livability, and environmental sustainability.
We know that TIGER is a successful model for the future because the applications for the first round of grants far exceeded the funds Congress made available. And, even though Congress authorized a second round of TIGER grants, those applications--nearly 1,000 of them seeking $19 billion--have also far exceeded the $600 million available.
The best part is, our investments in transportation and infrastructure
are supporting our economy at a time when it’s desperately needed. After
22 straight months of job losses, we’ve seen our economy create private
sector jobs for eight months in a row. The economic ripple effect of
these projects is enormous – just think of all of the asphalt, steel and
concrete needed to build Recovery Act projects. And our Buy America
provisions make sure that those products and supplies are supporting
businesses right here in the US.
On Labor Day, President Obama announced his vision for the future of America’s infrastructure, which builds on the Recovery Act’s historic transportation investments:
- Rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads--enough to circle the Earth six times;
- Laying and maintaining 4,000 miles of track--for transit, freight, and high speed rail--enough to stretch from coast to coast;
- Restoring 150 miles of runways and putting in place a next generation air-traffic control system to reduce travel time and delays.
President Obama’s plan will bring jobs to our economy now; it will be fully paid for without running up the deficit; and it will make a measurable and meaningful difference in the way Americans and our goods move from one place to another.
This is no ordinary time. We are creating jobs in transportation and revitalizing American transportation at an unprecedented pace. And, because of President Obama's infrastructure initiative, we're not letting up anytime soon.