It's no secret that I have been very outspoken about the American Jobs Act that President Obama proposed to Congress two weeks ago. If Congress passes this bill, we can put people back to work quickly improving our roads, bridges, runways and rails.
Yesterday in Minneapolis, I had the good fortune to talk about the American Jobs Act with a group of people who need very little persuasion, the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association. These folks know that one of the ways we can put Americans back to work while making our transportation system more efficient is by investing in rail.
And the President has been out in front on rail investments for quite some time. Continued support for high-speed rail, passenger rail, and freight rail are a key part of the President’s vision for the future of transportation in America as part of the American Jobs Act.
To see a clear example of how investing in transportation can put people to work building new ways to connect communities, I didn't have to travel far from Minneapolis.
Across the river, in downtown St. Paul, the historic Union Depot Station is under construction, soon to be reborn as the Union Depot Multimodal Transportation Hub. When complete, the new hub will connect Amtrak trains from Milwaukee and Chicago with the new Central Corridor Light Rail Line that will connect St Paul with Minneapolis.
U.S. Representative Betty McCollum agreed: "Too many construction workers across the country are on the sidelines, and in too many places across the country, our infrastructure is crumbling. We can’t let our global competitors get ahead of us.”
And the workers I met in St. Paul couldn't have been more enthusiastic. They understand that the job sites they report to each day are not just helping us battle unemployment; they're the launching pads for an economy that can move people and goods more safely and efficiently than ever before.
One carpenter, Paul Heins, had been out of work for 10 months about a year ago, before coming onto this project. "It's always good to be back to work," he said. "There are people that, for some reason, think unless you have some long-term career with one company you don't have a job. And it's like, no, this is a real job for me!"
Like the thousands of Minnesotans earning a steady paycheck today because of federally-funded projects like the Central Corridor Light Rail Line, millions more Americans around the country are looking for the same opportunity to rebuild our country and our economy.
As Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said, "This is not a photo-op; this is jobs."
With interest rates at record lows, unemployment high, new projects ready to be built, and tens of thousands of roads and bridges in need of maintenance and modernization, now is the time for Congress to take up this legislation. Now is the time to put America back to work.