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.