As I’ve mentioned before, I started out as a social studies teacher in Peoria. And yesterday, speaking about the rail provisions of the American Jobs Act at the annual United States High Speed Rail Association meeting, felt a lot like a civics class at Holy Family School.
Now, the USHSR Association is comprised of smart folks, leaders in rail transportation. They already know that high-speed rail will make American businesses more competitive. They know that around the globe high-speed rail is moving people quickly and reliably. They know that high-speed rail will revitalize American rail manufacturing, spur economic development, and generate quality jobs up and down the supply chain and all along the corridors.
They know the value of high speed rail. So I spoke to them instead about leadership, about America's proud history of investing in big things, even when times were tough. We built the transcontinental railroad during the bloodiest war in American history. We built the Hoover Dam and Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression.
Time after time, this country has produced visionary leaders who set in motion projects that would benefit generation after generation of Americans. In fact, more than a half century ago, when President Eisenhower set the nation on course to build the Interstate Highway System, we didn’t know where all the routes were going to be drawn on the map. We didn’t know where every dollar of funding was going to come from. But through 10 administrations and 28 sessions of Congress, we got it done.
These are the transportation projects that made America the greatest country in the world. These are the projects that made our way of life possible. As President Obama said in September, "Building a world class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower."
And what America needs today is a similar commitment to high-speed rail, a similar commitment to future generations.
The track forward is in the President’s outline for a long-term transportation bill and the transportation provisions of the American Jobs Act. The USHSRA is on board. American manufacturers are on board. Unemployed workers are on board, and the private companies with the equipment to do the job are on board and ready to hire those workers.
All they need is a green light from Congress.
The only thing stopping them from hiring Americans on factory floors and rail corridors is Congress. It’s not too late to put more people back to work, and it’s not too late for Congress to pass the transportation pieces of the American Jobs Act.