I am thrilled to be back in Dallas, and just like my last visit, today promises to be a big day in Big D.
Earlier today, I saw the exciting revitalization work going on at Love Field. These upgrades demonstrate that investments in America’s transportation system are essential for job-creation today and critical to American businesses and the economy over the long-run.
I also attended a listening and action session of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at Southern Methodist University. I was there to deliver a simple message: America needs a Transportation Jobs Bill.
And the Dallas Morning News was kind enough to publish an opinion essay I wrote on that important topic:
Building a Road to New Jobs
Cross-posted courtesy Dallas Morning News
In 2005, the World Economic Forum ranked America’s infrastructure the best in the world. Today, we aren’t even ranked in the top 10.
The need for investment in this country is enormous. Highways are choked with congestion. Bridges are crumbling after years of neglect. Daily commutes have grown longer, more crowded and more expensive. Airport, transit and shipping delays cost businesses billions of dollars every year.
At the same time, nearly one in five construction workers is looking for employment.
This is worse than an economic problem. This is a missed opportunity.
The good news is that the Obama administration is already connecting people who need work with work that needs to be done. During a time of economic hardship, we created 160,000 transportation-related jobs — and built 15,000 transportation projects spread across all 50 states.
Just consider the impact of two local transportation projects right here in Texas.
Love Field’s modernization project is producing more than 6,000 local jobs, a state-of-the-art air terminal and doubling the number of airport concession stands. Southwest Airlines backed bonds issued by the Airport Authority for the project, so the people of Dallas receive the benefits with limited public resources on the hook. This is exactly the kind of public-private partnership that President Barack Obama and I would like to see more of.
In Fort Worth on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation will commit $34 million to eliminate a chronic rail bottleneck, put down new train tracks and install new signaling and bridge upgrades. These investments will produce 900 jobs right away, lay a foundation for economic development and shore up Texas’ economic competitiveness by increasing rail capacity here by almost one-third.
One thing we have heard time and time again is that transportation projects like these are often delayed or even canceled because of archaic, overly burdensome regulations. That’s why, this week, the president directed certain federal agencies to select three projects that we can fast-track by immediately cutting unnecessary red tape. By reassessing the way we do business, we can find opportunities to create good jobs more quickly.
The bottom line is that investment in transportation is a job-creation plan. But the Obama Administration can’t put it into motion alone. We need Congress’ help.
America’s transportation program will expire at the end of September unless Congress acts. That means funding for highway construction, bridge repair and other essential projects will stop, sending more construction workers onto the unemployment rolls. If Congress fails to move quickly enough, nearly 1 million construction and other jobs could be lost during the next year. At a time when we should be building for the future, we simply cannot afford this setback.
As President Obama said Wednesday, “When it comes to our nation’s infrastructure, we shouldn’t just be playing patch-up or catch-up. We should be leading the world.” We know we can still build great things, not just in spite of enormous economic challenges but as a means of overcoming them.
In America’s first century, we carved the Erie Canal and connected the coasts with the transcontinental railroad. In our second century, we built our interstate highways and the roads and bridges that are still lifelines of our economy.
Each succeeding American generation has demonstrated the foresight and courage to invest in the most important transportation projects of their time — the projects that make America the greatest country in the world. We owe our children and grandchildren no less.