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9/1/2011



Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Obama calls on Congress to pass new surface transportation funding measure


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Yesterday, President Barack Obama called on Congress to set aside partisan politics to pass a “clean extension” of key transportation programs as soon as possible — and before the nation’s surface transportation bill expires Sept. 30.

If Congress doesn’t act and allows SAFETEA-LU to expire, more than 1 million construction and other workers would lose their jobs during the next year, Obama said yesterday during a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. If delayed for just 10 days, the country would lose $1 billion in highway funding, he added.

"At a time when a lot of people are talking about creating jobs, it's time to stop the political gamesmanship that costs us jobs,” the president said. “We shouldn’t be playing patch-up or catch-up, we should be leading the world.”

The United States currently invests half as much in infrastructure as it did 50 years ago, he added. In addition to extending the transportation bill, Obama called for a serious, long-term discussion on ways to improve and expand the nation’s transportation infrastructure, including passenger rail and high-speed rail systems.

Democrats prior foot-dragging on measures to extend the transportation bill have delayed the implementation of a new bill, said U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“In the interest of getting Americans back to work and moving vital transportation legislation, Republicans are committed to working with the president and Congressional Democrats,” Mica said in a prepared statement. “During their control, they … left major transportation legislation in the ditch for more than a year.”

As committee chair, Mica would agree to “one additional highway program extension, this being the eighth of the overdue transportation reauthorization,” he said.

Other interested parties also responded to Obama’s statement:

“On behalf of the more than 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association [APTA], I applaud President Obama for calling on Congress to pass an extension prior to Sept. 30 of the long overdue transportation bill. Continuing delays of this critical bill that invests in both public transportation and highways, will only hurt the economy and the many Americans who need jobs. After the extension is passed, Congress needs to come together to pass a long-term, well-funded, multimodal surface transportation bill.” — William Millar, president of APTA

“As an American and former Republican mayor, I was pleased to hear the president’s strong push to provide certainty to working families by not politicizing transportation construction. Nearly half a million jobs are at stake, and our nation’s economy and infrastructure are at a critical juncture.” — John Robert Smith, president and chief executive officer of Reconnecting America and co-chairman of Transportation for America

“With interest rates at historic lows and unemployment in the construction sector high, it would be shortsighted to allow the transportation bill to expire on Sept. 30. Now is the time to start making smart strategic investments in critical infrastructure projects that will keep goods, people and our economy moving.” — Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future Education Fund


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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