Transportation advocates dissatisfied with State of the Union address

January 30, 2014

(Photo: Matt H. Wade / Wikipedia)
(Photo: Matt H. Wade / Wikipedia)

Transportation advocates are expressing dissatisfaction with the State of the Union address that President Obama delivered Tuesday night.

Our sister site Better Roads reports that the speech only briefly addressed transportation issues, with the topic buried beneath the president’s push for tax reform and job creation.

“We can take the money we save from this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes — because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure,” Obama said in his address. “We’ll need Congress to protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. That can happen.”

Obama also briefly noted how natural gas can promote national energy independence.

“I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas,” Obama said.

Following the State of the Union address, transportation advocates began pointing out the critical transportation issues missed in the speech.

Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, said Tuesday night that, although Obama did shed light on transportation infrastructure needs, he wants to see the president and Congress develop solutions.

“The transportation funding needs of states are great. The resources of the federal government are limited,” Jones said in a written statement. “Therefore, we ask Congress and the President to give states maximum flexibility to meet their individual transportation funding needs, including the use of tolling on the existing Interstate highway system.”

“While we respect the President’s willingness ‘to create jobs rebuilding our roads,’ we know that no one source of revenue can be sufficient to build, maintain, and reconstruct our nation’s bridges, tunnels, and highways,” Jones continued. “Now is the time for Congress, the President, and other elected leaders to seriously consider all options to meet our country’s transportation funding needs. Tolling is one of the most powerful, effective, and proven tools in the funding toolbox.”

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, also spoke out Wednesday about the president’s failure to address improvements, Better Roads reported today.

Shuster noted that Obama has previously pushed the importance of infrastructure investments but merely “recycled” his old speeches Tuesday night.

“I welcome the President’s interest in improving our infrastructure. We have significant long-term infrastructure needs that must be addressed and responsibly paid for to improve our economic competitiveness, efficiency, and quality of life,” Shuster said in a written statement, “However, instead of showing leadership on these critical issues, the President offered little more than recycled sound bites from old speeches.”

“Almost two years ago, the President called for improving the performance of federal permitting and review of infrastructure projects.  Since that time he has reiterated that message numerous times as part of his ‘We Can’t Wait’ initiative, and did so once again last night,” Shuster continued. “I applaud the President’s goals of slashing bureaucracy and streamlining the permitting process for infrastructure projects, but we are still waiting for action.”

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association President and CEO Michael Johnson reiterated that call to action yesterday, pointing out that the industry needs “a long-term solution.”

Read Johnson’s statement below:

“The president once again mentioned the need to rebuild America’s surface transportation infrastructure in his State of the Union address. I hope the sixth time is the charm because it will take presidential leadership to find a long-term solution to the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

“The president’s call for corporate tax reform is a welcome development for members of the aggregates industry. By both lowering the rates and eliminating complexities within the code, everyone from mom and pop companies running a single sand and gravel operation all the way up to vertically integrated corporations employing thousands of men and women across America will see the benefits. Decreased tax compliance costs coupled with increased after tax earnings translate into stronger companies capable of providing good paying jobs for American workers.

“Furthermore, the president’s proposal to invest at least a portion of the revenue generated through corporate tax reform in the nation’s roads, bridges and ports is a step in the right direction and one that Republicans and Democrats can and should support. We commend the president for also pledging to further reduce government bureaucracy and streamline the project delivery process to build upon the progress being made under MAP-21.

“But applause lines do not build roads and, as country music artist Toby Keith sang, we need ‘a little less talk and a lot more action.’ The time is now to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

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