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Obama again touts infrastructure as a key economic driver

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
July 29, 2013

During a speech made while visiting the Jacksonville Port Authority late last week, President Barack Obama again called for increased infrastructure investment as a way to drive economic growth.

Infrastructure has often been a key theme for Obama and while many supply chain and logistics stakeholders maintain far more attention needs to be paid attention to it on Capitol Hill, there have been signs of progress made as well.

“If you want to create jobs right now, but also jobs that will have impacts for years, here’s the way to do it,” explained Obama in his comments in Jacksonville. “We know strong infrastructure is a key ingredient to a thriving economy. That’s how the United States became the best place in the world to do business. In a couple of years, new supertankers are going to start coming through the Panama Canal. Those supertankers can hold three times the amount of cargo. We want those supertankers coming here to Jacksonville. If we’ve got more supertankers coming here, that means more jobs at the terminals. That means more warehouses in the surrounding area. That means more contractors are getting jobs setting up those warehouses.”

In his February State of the Union address, the President heralded the White House’s plan to rebuild America, which includes:
Partnership to Rebuild America include:
-a “Fix-It-First” program that would focus on putting people to work “as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country,” calling for $50 billion in frontloaded transportation infrastructure investment and would direct $40 billion towards reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance on highways, bridges, transit systems, and airports nationwide;
- a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade things businesses need such as modern ports to move our goods, among others; and
- the investment of $10 billion to create and capitalize an independent National Infrastructure Bank (NIB), which would leverage private and public capital for infrastructure projects that show the greatest merit. Each dollar of federal funding can leverage up to $20 in total infrastructure investment, mainly from partners in the private sector and state and local government

Some of these items—like the infrastructure bank—have been floated before but have yet to come to fruition due to fiscal issues and political inactivity.

When Obama laid out the specifics of the $447 billion “American Jobs Act” in September 2011, transportation infrastructure was one of the key themes. At that time he noted that building a world class transportation system is what made the U.S. an economic superpower, while other countries like China are now building newer airports and faster railroads at a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America.

Fixing the nation’s infrastructure has been a core focus for the Obama administration.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 provided $48 billion to more than 15,000 transportation infrastructure-related projects. Other examples cited in White House fact sheet released earlier this year include:
-American workers improving more than 350,000 miles of U.S. roads and replaced more than 20,000 bridges since early 2009 through Recovery Act and core infrastructure funds; and
-the Department of Transportation has built or improved more than 6,000 miles of rail, 40 rail stations and purchased 260 passenger cars and 105 locomotives

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) was skeptical about Obama’s most recent push for infrastructure investment.

“Just over a year ago President Obama highlighted his commitment to expediting the study for harbor deepening at the Port of Jacksonville, so that it could accommodate the larger ships expected to use the expanding Panama Canal,” Shuster said in a statement.  “As part of his ‘We Can’t Wait’ initiative, he talked about finalizing this project review by April 2013.  However, that date has come and gone, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers still has not completed the necessary reviews to send a request to Congress for approval of this project. Apparently we can wait. We need fiscally responsible solutions that cut red tape and improve our essential infrastructure.  Our transportation systems are critical to the economic success of American businesses and job creators, and their effectiveness has a tremendous impact on our competitiveness and our quality of life. I hope the President will support these important efforts.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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