David Goldberg of the national nonprofit Transportation for America: PRESIDENT CITES STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT BRIDGES IN CALLING FOR "FIX IT FIRST" PROGRAM

It did our hearts good to hear the President talk about creating a Fix-it-First program (where have we heard that before?) that will focus on the health of our infrastructure, such as the 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. As we’ve noted, there are more such bridges scattered around the country than there are McDonald’s, nearly one in ten bridges.

Transit systems, too, are suffering from decay after a long recession that saw budgets cut to the bone and beyond. Our ports and freight networks need help, too. So, again, we were very pleased to hear the announcement of a focus on the upkeep of our key transportation networks – helping to ensure repair of existing infrastructure remains a priority.

The President’s pledge to put people to working to “fix it first” was a great applause line and brought members of both parties to their feet. We look forward to learning more about the President’s proposal, and hope the applause can be translated into votes.

As the President said a well-maintained, multimodal transportation system will help improve America’s economic competitiveness. Business and Americans alike are demanding more travel options like high speed rail, better maintained bridges and transit systems, and more accountability. We hope that the politics in Congress have shifted enough to make increasing investment in balanced, 21st century transportation system more palatable.

The President also had visionary language about reducing and shifting our use of energy, both for our economic development and for the sake of our climate:

“I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good … and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.”

This is certainly a more forward-looking policy than using those same revenues – from drilling on public lands – to promote still more driving of gas-burning vehicles. We understand that the President had a lot of ground to cover and could not get into the weeds on every topic. But we do hope that his willingness to mention these initiatives foreshadows an effort to put some flesh on these fundamentally sound bones.


A few excerpts from President Obama’s speech last night that may be of interest to readers of this blog:

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.  (Applause.)  Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.  (Applause.)


In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.


America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire — a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.  The CEO of Siemens America — a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina — said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.  And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world.  And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district.  I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings. (Laughter.)

So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. (Applause.)  And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most:  modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.  (Applause.)  Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away.  We can get this done.

My three cents: Not much overall on transportation or mass transit but certainly encouraging (in my view) to hear the President say “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” It’s interesting to hear the President talk about more natural gas drilling on public lands to help the U.S. become more energy independent while also talking about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to stave off climate change. On the surface, those goals do not seem compatible, but the President argues that natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels we would use otherwise.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials: OBAMA TOUTS INFRASTRUCTURE IN STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Obama pitched a “Fix-It First” program to address the nation’s most immediate infrastructure needs and called for more use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

The president said more infrastructure investment could address the “nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country” and proposed a “Partnership to Rebuild America” to attract private capital “to upgrade what our businesses need most, [including] modern ports to move our goods.”

He also said the U.S. “natural-gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence” and proposed using some oil and gas revenue to fund an Energy Security Trust to “drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote in his DOT blog following the speech that “fixing the country’s roads, rails, bridges, ports, transit systems and other transportation assets most in need of attention will create jobs and help our businesses compete more effectively.”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials said in a statement released Wednesday morning that it, too, backed the president’s call for more infrastructure spending.

“AASHTO salutes President Obama for again calling for greater investment in America’s infrastructure. Now we need to work together to tackle the most pressing issue facing our transportation system — how are we going to pay for it,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO’s executive director.

Greater use of natural gas in transportation “would be a welcomed step,” said Richard Kolodziej, president of Natural Gas Vehicles of America.

“The use of natural-gas vehicles in light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty applications is rapidly growing, [and] we have been encouraged by the president’s past statements in support of natural gas vehicles,” he said in a statement, adding that “with supportive government policies, natural-gas vehicle use could grow even faster.”


Donate Volunteer Find an Event


get updates