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Obama to Congress: ‘Time to Act’ on Construction Jobs

Thursday, November 3, 2011

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Backdropped by an aging bridge to drive home his point, President Obama urged Congress this week to help revive the battered construction industry by passing an infrastructure jobs bill.

The Rebuild America Jobs Act (S. 1769), introduced Monday in the Senate, is “a bill put workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America,” according to its title.

 I-35 bridge collapse, MN

 Todd Swain / FEMA

Work on roads and bridges would receive the biggest piece of the jobs package. Minnesota’s I-35 Bridge collapsed in 2007.

Sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the $60 billion measure would be funded with a “millionaires’ surtax” of 0.7% on modified adjusted gross income in excess of $1 million. The tax would take effect for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012.

‘Voted For and Paid For’

“Construction workers have been among the Americans hit hardest over the past few years,” Obama said Wednesday in remarks delivered at the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C. “And that makes no sense when there’s so much of America that needs rebuilding.”

He added: “This week, Congress has the chance to do something about it and pass a bill that will put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, airports and transit systems.

“It’s a bill that includes the kinds of ideas both parties have voted for in the past, it’s paid for, and its ideas are supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people. It’s time for Congress to act.”

The Key Bridge is in critical need of repair, but the project has been deferred to 2015 due to lack of funds, the Department of Transportation says.

$60B Investment

Sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the bill provides $50 billion in immediate  investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation—”helping to modernize an infrastructure that now receives a grade of ‘D’ from the American Society of Civil Engineers and putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job,” according to a Democratic Fact Sheet on the measure.

 Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Rebuild America Jobs Act (S. 1769) on Monday.

Advocates say the bill will help upgrade, restore, build or maintain 150,000 miles of road; 4,000 miles of train tracks; 150 miles of runways, and a next-generation air-traffic control system that will reduce travel time and delays.

The plan includes:

• $27 billion to rebuild roads and bridges;

• $9 billion to repair transit systems;

• $5 billion for projects selected through a competitive grant program;

• $4 billion for construction of high-speed rail;

• $2 billion to improve airport facilities; and

• $1 billion for the NextGen air traffic control system.

The bill also establishes a National Infrastructure Bank capitalized with $10 billion that will leverage private and public capital to help fund a broad range of infrastructure projects.

Making the Case

To bolster Obama’s case, the White House also released a report detailing the economic rationale for investing in infrastructure.

“Investments in transportation infrastructure have substantial economic benefits, in both the short and the long run,” said the 22-page report, released Wednesday and prepared by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, the National Economic Council, DOT and the Treasury Department.

“Evidence of these benefits is clearly visible in many of the infrastructure projects that have recently been completed throughout the country.”

The report details recent infrastructure projects from more than 20 states that it said had created significant economic benefits and noted that 1.1 million workers in the construction industry were unemployed in September 2011, an unemployment rate of 13.3 percent.

Additional Steps

The Administration also announced what it called “several common-sense steps” to speed the review and approval process for transportation projects and leverage additional private sector funding for job creation. These include:

• Directing U.S. DOT to award $527 million in competitive TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants by the end of 2011—months ahead of schedule.

• Directing DOT to shorten the application process for the 2012 round of Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) funding.TIFIA provides up to one-third of the financing needed for bridge, tunnel, toll, transit, and other large-scale transportation projects.

• Establishing a Transportation Rapid Response Team, co-chaired by U.S. DOT and the Council on Environmental Quality, to expedite reviews of surface transportation projects.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Economy; Infrastructure; Labor; Mass transit; Roads/Highways

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (11/4/2011, 1:19 PM)

This program must be monitored closely for quantifiable, interim results. We don't want it discovered at the end of the programs that results expected did not occur. Interim improvements for immediate corrective action gives time for the program(s) to change course and hit their targets. Continuous Process Improvement with quantifiable measure is needed!

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