President Obama makes case for more investment in transportation

Here is the description of President Obama’s speech to Congress tonight from Metro’s government relations staff:

Moments ago, President Obama delivered remarks before a joint session of Congress in which he outlined his plan to jumpstart America’s economy. The President’s plan, delivered with the national unemployment rate standing at 9.1%, encourages Congress to enact a series of tax cuts and increase investment in our nation’s infrastructure, among other initiatives. Specifically, the President encouraged added investment in roads, bridges and transit projects. Our agency’s chair, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was present at the joint session of Congress at the invitation of President Obama.

The President remarked this evening that, “The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.”

Our agency will continue working with the Obama Administration and Congress to ensure that any legislation adopted to jumpstart our economy serves to advance our Board-approved legislative program.

Here is the description of the transportation aspects of the President’s jobs plan from the White House website:

Making an Immediate Investment in Our Roads, Rails and Airports: The President’s plan includes $50 billion in immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation, helping to modernize an infrastructure that now receives a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers and putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job. The President’s plan includes investments to improve our airports, support NextGen Air Traffic Modernization efforts, and resources for the TIGER and TIFIA programs, which target competitive dollars to innovative multi-modal infrastructure programs. It will also take special steps to enhance infrastructure-related job training opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups and ensure that small businesses can compete for infrastructure contracts.The President will work administratively to speed infrastructure investment through a recently issued Presidential Memorandum developed with his Jobs Council directingdepartments and agencies to identify high impact, job-creating infrastructure projects that can be expedited in a transparent manner through outstanding review and permitting processes. The call for greater infrastructure investment has been joined by leaders from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.

Establishing a National Infrastructure Bank:The President is calling for Congress to pass a National Infrastructure Bank capitalized with $10 billion, in order to leverage private and public capital and to invest in a broad range of infrastructure projects of nationaland regional significance, without earmarks or traditional political influence. The Bank would be based on the model Senators Kerry and Hutchison have championed while building on legislation by Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg and the work of long-time infrastructure bank champions like Rosa DeLauro and the input of the President’s Jobs Council.

I think the bottom line here folks is that there is no immediate victory for Metro or any of the agency’s particular projects. However, I think it’s also fair to say that President Obama seems to recognize there is a more pressing need for the type of investment in infrastructure, given all the (rightful) attention on unemployment in the United States.

That’s encouraging, especially given this agency’s repeated calls for Congress to enact the America Fast Forward program to allow for more federal loans and financing to help build Measure R projects now, not years from now.

As usual, follow-through from the White House and the willingness of Congress to go along remains to be seen.

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