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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Obama emphasizes 'bipartisan infrastructure' plan in SOTU address


In his State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass a "bipartisan infrastructure plan" to bolster the nation's economic strength.

"21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure  —  modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this,” Obama said.

"So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline," the president said, in reference to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. "Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

The president's call for infrastructure development to support economic competitiveness was welcomed by transportation organizations.

"Americans want Congress and the president to break the gridlock and work together. As President Obama pointed out, infrastructure is a bipartisan issue," said Michael Melaniphy, president and chief executive officer of the American Public Transportation Association. The association believes that both parties should find common ground on a long-term surface transportation bill before the current legislation expires May 31, Melaniphy said.

"Congress must also fund the Highway Trust Fund, which includes the Mass Transit Account," he added.

The Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) Executive Director Leslie Blakey commended Obama's call — announced prior to last night's speech — to leverage public-private investments to improve infrastructure.

"Policies, announced last week, to incentivize innovative financing and private investment in public infrastructure  will be a boon, particularly to our freight network as gateways and corridors often encompass private industry partners and facilities that have a natural interest in improving public system parts," Blakey said in a press release. "Adding new municipal bonding instruments, accelerating TIFIA projects, speeding permitting, and providing 'gap' funding that rewards projects with high levels of non-federal funding commitments can all be part of the solution to address our goods movement infrastructure deficiencies."

Building America's Future Co-Chairs Ray LaHood and Ed Rendell also applauded the administration's plan to attract new sources of revenue to fund infrastructure.

"America is one big pothole and we’re facing substandard roads and bridges that are structurally deficient from coast to coast," said LaHood, who was Obama's transportation secretary during the president's first term. "This country is facing an infrastructure crisis and we need to take action immediately." 

Said former Pennsylvania Gov. Rendell: "Our country is desperate for progress, and an investment in our roads and bridges is a smart investment in creating good paying middle class jobs — something I know the president cares about deeply."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/21/2015