Obama pushes infrastructure investment during Minnesota trip
February 26th, 2014
10:43 AM ET
8 months ago

Obama pushes infrastructure investment during Minnesota trip

Updated 4:49 p.m. ET, 2/26/2014

(CNN) – On a visit to St. Paul, Minnesota Wednesday President Barack Obama launched his administration's latest grant-funding competition this time aimed at spurring investment in new infrastructure projects.

Framing the announcement as part of his 2014 "year of action," the President told a crowd gathered in the city's new Union Depot that infrastructure projects are a direct path to jobs.

"Any opportunity agenda begins with creating more good jobs and one of the best, fastest ways to create good jobs is by rebuilding America's infrastructure," Obama said. "Our roads, our bridges, our rails, our ports, our airports, our schools, our power grids. We've got a lot of work to do out there and we got to put folks to work."

Obama pointed to the building he was standing in as a prime example. Union Depot was rehabilitated with the help of federal TIGER grants, and Obama called on cities and states to apply for $600 million in newly available TIGER funding before an April 28 deadline.

This new round of grants will be targeted at transportation projects that effect job creation, economic competitiveness and economic development. For the first time since 2010, applications can also include proposals to fund planning grants.

Originally created as part of the 2009 Recovery Act and subsequently reauthorized as part of the omnibus spending bill signed into law earlier this year, according to the White House the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program has funded $3.5 billion worth of projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico since its creation.

Obama also urged Congress to take up his forthcoming transportation reauthorization proposal worth more than $300 billion, including $150 billion in new revenue achieved by reforming the nation's corporate tax structure.

"Congress has an important deadline coming up," the President said. "If Congress doesn't finish a transportation bill by the end of the summer we could see construction projects stop in their tracks. Machines sitting idle. Workers off the job. So next week I'm going to send Congress a budget that funds rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in a more responsible way.

According to a fact sheet distributed by the White House, the President's proposal will include "closing unfair tax loopholes, lowering tax rates, and making the system more fair."

This would create a one-time source of revenue that would then be dedicated to funding surface transportation projects.

A statement issued by Kathleen Bower of AAA, an association of motor clubs formerly known as the American Automotive Association, offered a mixed reaction to the President's remarks. Bower lauded the President for "finally focusing on the funding of our nation's transportation system" but criticized his plan to use one-time funding to address the problems, and instead called for "immediate action" to secure long-term funding through new tax revenue.

"AAA agrees with a large group of diverse transportation stakeholders that a gas tax increase is the most viable, responsible and effective near-term solution to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent," said Bower, AAA vice president for public affairs.

CNN's Chloe Sommers contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Fair wrote:

    Nah, although your paranoia shines through again. EVERYONE uses the roads. EVERYONE should pay for their upkeep. The equitable way to do that is via a use-tax, which is exactly what the gas tax is.
    ---------
    A Democrat in the House proposed raising the gas tax back in December. Republicans were dead set against it, I told you.
    -------
    Uh huh... and that genius Sen. Boxer from California proposed levying the tax at the refinery... as if the price wouldn't have wound up at the pump anyway. What are you whining about anyway, Rudy? I would think you would be happy with the transportation funds being siphoned out of the general fund, where only roughly half of the population pays into.

    February 26, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. just asking

    if obama is proposing this shouldn't it be called the paper tiger grants? hahahaha....

    February 26, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  3. smith

    @Lynda- So by your logic it was really Gov. Blanco`s fault for New Orleans infrastructure failures with regards to Hurricane Katrina.

    February 26, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Tommy G posted:

    A Democrat in the House proposed raising the gas tax back in December. Republicans were dead set against it, I told you.

    States also tax gasoline for road and bridge purposes. Most of the roads and bridges in this county are state and local responsibilities. If they need work, then the respective state and local government should be paying for the project.

    Federal gasoline tax revenue should only be used for the interstate highways. But of course we all know it is not. I'll bet most of it gets diverted to various welfare programs.
    -------------------------
    You seem to forget that many state and local transportation frequently apply for and receive federal assistance. You also seem to be totally against investing in interstates roads and bridges.

    Most major cities need more roads, more bridges, and more mass transit, both rail and bus. But, we keep running into governors like Christie who canceled the final phase of a decade long rail project, claiming that he feels the project will over budget. Ten years worth of work, went down the drain.....until the Obama administration sued NJ to get its' money back. Christie tried to keep it to help pay for a corporate rate tax cut he made.

    February 26, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    "Nah, although your paranoia shines through again. EVERYONE uses the roads. EVERYONE should pay for their upkeep. The equitable way to do that is via a use-tax, which is exactly what the gas tax is.
    ---
    A Democrat in the House proposed raising the gas tax back in December. Republicans were dead set against it, I told you."

    Uh huh... and that genius Sen. Boxer from California proposed levying the tax at the refinery... as if the price wouldn't have wound up at the pump anyway. What are you whining about anyway, Rudy? I would think you would be happy with the transportation funds being siphoned out of the general fund, where only roughly half of the population pays into.
    -------------------------------
    Don't go "tom l" on me, Fair. You're chewing me out after I had AGREED with you. You're picking fights where none exist.

    Yes, the gas tax needs to be raised. It ahsn't been raised in over two decades. I was simply pointing out that your Republican heroes had already killed that idea two months ago.

    February 26, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  6. Silence DoGood

    @just asking
    if obama is proposing this shouldn't it be called the paper tiger grants? hahahaha....
    ---------
    We are seeing rants and hand wringing and planning and money being desperately spent by the Radical Right to stop progress and return to an imaginary past. If this is a paper tiger, it is as effective as a real one apparently. Meanwhile, it is something this country needs. Thanks once again Mr. President.

    February 26, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ smith

    So smith, by your logic you didn't read my full comment?

    February 26, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  8. smith

    @Silence- Obama could toss a pebble in a pond and you would thank him for it.

    February 26, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    "Nah, although your paranoia shines through again. EVERYONE uses the roads. EVERYONE should pay for their upkeep. The equitable way to do that is via a use-tax, which is exactly what the gas tax is.
    -
    A Democrat in the House proposed raising the gas tax back in December. Republicans were dead set against it, I told you."

    Uh huh... and that genius Sen. Boxer from California proposed levying the tax at the refinery... as if the price wouldn't have wound up at the pump anyway. What are you whining about anyway, Rudy? I would think you would be happy with the transportation funds being siphoned out of the general fund, where only roughly half of the population pays into.
    -----------
    Don't go "tom l" on me, Fair. You're chewing me out after I had AGREED with you. You're picking fights where none exist.

    Yes, the gas tax needs to be raised. It ahsn't been raised in over two decades. I was simply pointing out that your Republican heroes had already killed that idea two months ago.
    --------–
    And all I'm pointing out is that if Obama had any stones whatsoever, he should explain to the people that this should be paid for by an increase in the gas tax. THEN let's see how popular it is. But noooooooooooo... he wants to pay for it out of corporate taxes, and his sheep all baaaa baaaa YES, because while they all want the roads fixed and they all clamor about the jobs it will create, when it comes to paying for it, they want NO part of that whatsoever.

    February 26, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  10. smith

    @Lynda-typical dodge the question response.

    February 26, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  11. Thomas

    YES YES YES ! ITS ABOUT TIME WE HAVE A TRANSPORTATION POLICY FOR THIS CENTURY !

    Our rail system runs like a third world banana republic .

    We need to modernize our infrastructure , thats way we pay taxes. QUALITY OF LIFE DEPENDS ON RELIABLE EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION .

    HOW MUCH DID WE SPEND IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN ?

    NOW IT"S OUT TURN !

    February 26, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. Tommy G

    Rudy NYC
    You seem to forget that many state and local transportation frequently apply for and receive federal assistance. You also seem to be totally against investing in interstates roads and bridges.
    --

    I'm not forgetting, I just don't think the federal government should be paying for state and local projects like this. The people in that state and locality are the ones that need to be paying for them. Building and maintaining the interstate highways is what the federal funds should be going for.

    Most major cities need more roads, more bridges, and more mass transit, both rail and bus. But, we keep running into governors like Christie who canceled the final phase of a decade long rail project, claiming that he feels the project will over budget. Ten years worth of work, went down the drain.....until the Obama administration sued NJ to get its' money back. Christie tried to keep it to help pay for a corporate rate tax cut he made.
    --

    Well if the cities need this then let the people of the city and state PAY for it. Why should people from all over the country be paying for it? BTW, it is almost impossible to build roads through cities anymore. This is all maintenane activity. You use the roads so pay for their upkeep.

    February 26, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    And all I'm pointing out is that if Obama had any stones whatsoever, he should explain to the people that this should be paid for by an increase in the gas tax. THEN let's see how popular it is. But noooooooooooo... he wants to pay for it out of corporate taxes, and his sheep all baaaa baaaa YES, because while they all want the roads fixed and they all clamor about the jobs it will create, when it comes to paying for it, they want NO part of that whatsoever.
    --------------------------–
    Would madame like some cheese to go with her whine? What makes you think he won't propose that after Republicans reject this first idea. I think it would be rather savvy to make several proposals just for them to say "No" in unison. He can still make that proposal down that road.

    It's called strategy, Fair. If he can get it through this way, then why not try it this way? The inevitable "No" from Republicans would carry a double edge. They're saying no to federal infrastructure improvements, and they would also be saying no to something that they have suggested needs to be done.....restructuring the corporate tax code to eliminate loopholes.

    February 26, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    smith

    @Lynda-typical dodge the question response.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Uh. No smith.
    If anyone provided a "dodge the question response" that would've been you when you responded with your inane and flippant comment about a few potholes.
    Lynda had a bridge collapse in her state due to its disrepair.
    She was being kind in saying that you had not read her entire post.

    February 26, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    Does it hurt if every village is linked to Trains? Does it hamper private sector in linking this facility? No. Greedy Rethuglican garbage hurts. Yes, there was a proposal in linking three cities, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago. GM made a fuss because oil from Saudi was the main to buy this. They corrupted–today you–USA pay 3.40 cents per gallon oil. Go to Europe–wonderful public transport.

    February 26, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. Ron L

    For all of you who disagree that the Federal Gas Tax should not be increased to get these horrible roads repaired I would like to here how you think it should be paid for. The facts are as cars have gone from 10 MPG to over 25 MPG Americans are driving more, wearing out the roads more, and paying less taxes since they fill up less often. So, all of you people who are so good at telling us what is wrong, HOW WOULD YOU FIX THIS??? The 600 million dollars the President is talking about here is not even a third of the amount of money required to just fix and replace worn out roads and bridges.

    February 26, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  17. wigglwagon

    Only 302 BILLION? That is less than we lose every year in our DUMB trade agreements. America loses over a billion dollars every single day because we buy more imported goods than other countries buy of our exports.

    We could abolish our 'free trade agreements' and pay for this project in less than a year.

    February 26, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    smith
    @Lynda-typical dodge the question response.
    ---------–

    For a fence sitter you certainly come across as one sided, smith. To be clear: I do not live in LA so I can't speak to what occurred before or during Katrina.

    Do enlighten me. What went wrong, and why.

    I did explain to you events prior to our bridge collapse here in Minnesota. Needed maintenance was lacking. The bridge design ultimately failed (but NOT without warnings). Governor Pawlenty was at the helm when that collapse occurred. I would have stated the same no matter if Ventura (previous to Pawlenty) or our current governor (Mark Dayton) had made the same decisions Pawlenty made. Unfortunately for Tim Pawlenty, it was HE who decided not to fund the necessary money needed WHEN IT WAS BROUGHT TO OUR ATTENTION that the bridge did indeed have major structural problems. The funding was withheld and lives were deeply affected. Especially the children sitting in their school bus on a concrete slab of cement: the only thing keeping them from tumbling down into the Mississippi River.

    I would, as Tom Paine suggested, rather not have a similar situation ever again happen in America.

    February 26, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Most major cities need more roads, more bridges, and more mass transit, both rail and bus. But, we keep running into governors like Christie who canceled the final phase of a decade long rail project, claiming that he feels the project will over budget. Ten years worth of work, went down the drain.....until the Obama administration sued NJ to get its' money back. Christie tried to keep it to help pay for a corporate rate tax cut he made.
    -

    Well if the cities need this then let the people of the city and state PAY for it. Why should people from all over the country be paying for it? BTW, it is almost impossible to build roads through cities anymore. This is all maintenane activity. You use the roads so pay for their upkeep.
    ----------------------–
    Do you know how many goods enter this country through the Port of Elizabeth/Newark in this country? Do you think that those two cities should be the sole investors in those sea port facilities? Do you think that they should invest in the extensive railway systems that run thoughout the shipyards, which connect to railways delivering goods all across the nation?

    Do you mean to tell me that you really don't understand what "You didn't build that" actually meant? OF course, you are. Just like you forgot that most state and local road/bridge projects receive some sort of federal assistance. Either that, or you're in serious denial of not knowing the facts. Admit it.

    February 26, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    How did we go from the President presenting a program to apply for a grant that states can use to fix their infrastructure to assigning blame to the left or right for the disrepair of said infrastructure?
    I thnk it is ridiculous to think that when a bridge, or a levee collapses it should be blamed on the administration currenty in charge during the collapse.
    UNLESS said administration had prior knowledge of the gravity and the danger of said disrepair and they chose, for whatever reason, to ignore it.

    February 26, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  21. Tommy G

    A formal investigation took more than a year, but once it was finished the National Transportation Safety Board said the cause of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge tragedy was a simple design flaw in the bridge's gusset plates - metal plates that help connect one steel beam to another.
    ---

    Here is some education for all you lefties pointing to the Minnesota bridge collapse. The problem was NOT a lack of maintenance but a DESIGN FLAW. Now can you all stop using this as some big example of our "crumbling infrastructure"? It is total deceit to use it in that way.

    February 26, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Ron L

    For all of you who disagree that the Federal Gas Tax should not be increased to get these horrible roads repaired I would like to here how you think it should be paid for.
    ------------------
    I'm interested to hear the response to this, too. Like I told Fair, this was proposed some Democrat from Oregon in early December 2013. Republicans were strongly against it. The rate has remained fixed for over 20 years.

    February 26, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  23. smith

    @Lynda-You don`t have to answer the question.Your caught either way, if you say Blanco is at fault then you blame a democrat for infrastructure failures. If you say no its not Blanco`s fault then you just used a double standard.

    February 26, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  24. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Tommy G: "Now can you all stop using this as some big example of our "crumbling infrastructure"? It is total deceit to use it in that way."

    Yeah. Because we ALL know what happened when that "design flaw" crumbled into the Mississippi River. Actually, Tommy, by simply ignoring the flaw, the ultimate damage did indeed become the total collapse. The flaw itself could have been shored up, or the bridge closed prior to the collapse.

    Instead, the bridge was allowed to collapse. Guess why? Lack of maintenance.

    February 26, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Tommy G wrote:

    Here is some education for all you lefties pointing to the Minnesota bridge collapse. The problem was NOT a lack of maintenance but a DESIGN FLAW.
    -------------------------
    Uh, no, Tommy. Structural flaws, not design flaws. That span had been in use one or two decades beyond it's life expectancy. State inspectors had identified flaws and deficiencies in the bridge, but Tim Pawlenty wanted a tax cut on his credentials as he ran for POTUS. And, so the repairs to correct the flaws were never made in a timely fashion.

    February 26, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
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