APTA | Passenger Transport
January 31, 2011

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Obama Calls for Investment in Infrastructure, Transportation

President Barack Obama cited transportation infrastructure investment—including high-speed rail—as a priority for his administration during his 2011 State of the Union Address on Jan. 25. He listed support for infrastructure—“from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet”—as his “third step in winning the future,” following leadership in research and technology and strengthening the U.S. education system. “To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information—from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet.”

“America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System,” Obama said, linking these projects to the development of new job opportunities. “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,” he explained.

While the nation’s infrastructure “used to be the best” in the world, Obama said, “our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports.” He cited an American Society of Civil Engineers “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” released last year that gave the sector an overall D grade.

“Over the last two years, we’ve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. And tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble those efforts,” Obama announced. “We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”

He also said: “Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying—without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway ... All these investments—in innovation, education, and infrastructure—will make America a better place to do business and create jobs.”

Following the speech, APTA President William Millar complimented the president “for emphasizing the importance of investing in transportation infrastructure to create American jobs and move to a better future. Good public transportation, high-speed rail, and highway infrastructure is the foundation not only for creating and supporting American jobs, but also for stimulating economic growth and prosperity.”

Millar added: “This is not the time to be complacent; it is the time to go forward with a vision of a better future. Rebuilding America through transportation infrastructure investment is something that cannot wait.  It is our fervent hope that President Obama and Congress will fashion a well-funded, long-term, multi-year surface transportation authorization bill this year.”

On Jan. 27, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood followed the president's speech with a visit to the Proterra electric bus manufacturing plant in Greenville, SC. Learn more here.


President Barack Obama delivers the 2011 State of the Union Address Jan. 25 on Capitol Hill.
Photo: AP/Evan Vucci 

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