Finally, momentum from the White House on transportation

Posted by on September 8th, 2010 at 10:39 am

President Obama raised eyebrows in the transportation world Monday when he announced a plan to invest $50 billion in transportation infrastructure that would jump-start a long overdue reauthorization of the nation’s transportation bill.

The White House says “tangible accomplishments of the President’s plan over the next six years include” $50 billion in the first year to “rebuild” 150,000 miles of roads, “construct and maintain” 4,000 miles of rail, and “rehabilitate or reconstruct” 150 miles of runway.

Expanding on their commitment to “Roads”, the White House says “Our investments would be focused on modernizing the highway system’s critical assets while providing much – needed jobs.” It’s not clear whether or not that modernization might include better shoulders and space for bicycling when possible, but you never know.

Obama’s proposal also calls for the creation of an “infrastructure bank” that would “leverage private and state and local capital to invest in projects that are most critical to our economic progress.” Obama says this new way of funding projects would be an “important departure” from the old earmark and formula-based grant pograms that are “are allocated more by geography and politics than demonstrated value.”

The announcement came during a jobs rally in Milwaukee and details of the plan are fuzzy, but there is reason for optimism simply due to the fact that the White House is talking about transportation at all.

The overdue reauthorization of the transportation bill has been put aside for other priorities since Obama came into office. Now it looks like, under the guise of creating jobs, the White House might start pushing on this issue sooner rather than later. And right on cue, the GOP is already lining up against it.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill reports today that, “Predictably, the GOP does not look willing to lend a hand. Republicans have already lined up against Obama’s proposal, and another protracted and nasty fight over a major White House initiative looks likely.”

US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood — who famously remarked back in March that we can expect to see the “end of favoring motorized transportation” — wrote a supportive post on the White House blog about the plan.

Portland’s Congressman Earl Blumenauer has written a guest post on Infrastructurist about the proposal. He points out his support for the administration’s plan for paying for the proposal by “ending wasteful and unnecessary subsidies for big oil companies.”

Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, told me his organization is “delighted” that the President has taken up the transportation issue, but he added that the League “hopes that this initiative a) explicitly invests in 21st century infrastructure – i.e. active transportation, and b) breaks the deadlock on capitol hill and gets a long-term transportation bill moving!”

While so far there isn’t any language from the White House that this initial $50 billion will fund bicycling projects, we’ll keep you posted as implementation details get more clear.

Download a PDF the White House FAQ sheet on this proposal. For more reporting on the national transportation scene, follow the excellent Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

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Opus the PoetNick VSpiffy Recent comment authors
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with Ray LaHood standing by I guess we can hope that all those miles of road improvements will include a bike lane or something similar to provide bikes better access to those roads…

Nick V
Nick V

I’ve supported Obama from Day 1 and still do very much. With all the other problems he inherited, I can understand why he is just now mentioning transportation. The worse news is that he probably needs to push something through Congress before the elections or else the screaming, SUV driving, finger pointing, flame fanning, gun toting, backwards thinking, artery bursting Republicans will snuff it out quick. (Sorry if I seem biased…..)

Opus the Poet

$50 billion sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but where I live there are $20 Billion in unfunded projects, both new builds and rehabs, within 50 miles of my house. Less than $50 million of those projects are for bike/ped infrastructure.