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AAR, Transportation Trades, U.S. Rep. Mica respond to President Obama's State of the Union address


Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger was pleased to hear President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday recognize freight rail's role in U.S. economic growth and prosperity — and the role it continues to serve in the economic recovery.

Obama called for investment in the nation's infrastructure.

"America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System," Obama said. "The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp."

AAR officials were pleased that Obama recognized the freight-rail industry's private investment — $480 billion over the past 30 years — "to make our national freight-rail network the envy of the world," said Hamberger in a prepared statement.

"These private investments ensure freight rail can connect businesses to the global marketplace, thereby sustaining vital jobs all across the country, while providing the literal foundation for increased intercity passenger and high-speed rail," Hamberger said.

The freight rail industry, Hamberger added, also applauds President Obama's focus on "common sense regulation."

Meanwhile, Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, said Obama "upped the ante in the debate about investing in our crumbling transportation system and infrastructure."

The president is in agreement with transportation labor that the United States "can no longer afford to fall behind China — with its ‘faster trains and newer airports’ — and the rest of the world in investing in the moving of people, goods and information," Wytkind said in a prepared statement.

Transportation labor "pledges" to support Obama's "vision to rebuild America" as Congress considers "several long overdue, multi-year transportation investment bills," Wytkind said.

But, U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a prepared statement issued after the speech that while the country does need to improve its infrastructure, it must do so in a “fiscally responsible” way.

"After the Administration derailed a major six-year transportation bill in 2009, it is encouraging that they are now on board with getting infrastructure projects and jobs moving again," Mica said. "However, just another proposal to spend more of the taxpayers’ money, when we have billions of dollars sitting idle tied up in government red tape, will never get our economic car out of the ditch."

— Julie Sneider

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/26/2011