When the Obama Administration released its proposed 2012 budget, U.S. Conference of Mayors
President Elizabeth Kautz (Burnsville, MN) said, “With 85 percent of the people in this country living in cities and metropolitan areas, we believe the best way to "out-innovate, “out-educate” and “out-build" is to make investments that foster growth."
And last week, when I addressed a US Conference of Mayors leadership dinner, my message was simple: we agree with you.
That's why the President's proposal for new surface transportation legislation includes:
- Three discretionary grant programs
- Transit operating assistance
- An expanded national highway system
- An infrastructure bank
- Municipal planning support
The president's proposal creates three discretionary award programs that will benefit cities. I'm most excited about the competitive Transportation Leadership Awards, which will let us reward cities that break down barriers to performance-based and outcome-driven policies and investments. It certainly makes sense to me that we invest in success.
Redefining our national highway system is another step we're taking that will benefit the 85 percent of American who live in our nation's cities. The President’s proposal changes the definition of the national highway system to include 200,000 more miles of roadway. That's a 30 percent increase. This will make it easier for communities to access the highway funding they need--and to direct resources to the projects of greatest significance to the largest number of people.
You can find the same theme running through all of our proposals for new transportation legislation: America's communities know which projects matter the most. They know which projects are likely to create the most jobs and which projects are likely to increase the flow of goods and people along our arteries of commerce. So we want to give them a greater voice in making sure those projects are selected for federal support.
We are, as I've written before, at a crossroads. We can stick to the rigid funding formulas of the past, or we can create the conditions for a way forward that is more agile and robust. We can maintain a staus quo that has allowed our infrastructure to deteriorate, or we can lay the foundation for a vibrant 21st century economy.
As Mayor Kautz said:
“Investing in America's cities can produce the type of economic expansion the President envisions. Without growth in our cities and metropolitan areas, there can be no sustained national recovery to win the future."