May 14th, 2014
04:55 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama to GOP: Tear down this bridge, and pay for a new one

Tarrytown, New York (CNN) – Saying that rebuilding America "shouldn't be a partisan issue," President Obama tackled the dense issue of federal infrastructure spending Wednesday. He called on Republicans in Congress to "not fight on something we all know makes sense."

Obama took Republicans to task several times for not approving funds that would replenish the nation's Highway Trust Fund, which could run out of money late this summer.

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He said states are already cutting back on projects because of the uncertainty, and that thousands of good-paying construction jobs are in jeopardy as a result. If Congress does not, "act by the end of the summer, federal funding for transportation projects will run out," Obama said. "There will be no money, the cupboard will be bare."

Obama told Republicans that if they didn't want to listen to him, maybe they should listen to some past GOP leaders.

"My favorite president happens to have been a Republican - a guy named Abraham Lincoln in my home state of Illinois." He added "it was Lincoln who committed to a railroad connecting East to West, even while he was struggling mightily to hold together North and South. It was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who built the Interstate Highway System. It was Ronald Reagan who said that rebuilding our infrastructure is 'an investment in tomorrow that we must make today'.”

The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop. The bridge is in the process of being replaced by a new span, and is one of several so-called fast track projects that the President used as an example of success stories he would like to see repeated across the country.

In that vein, Obama also announced an executive action to streamline infrastructure permitting at the federal level, and unveiled plans to fast-track 11 projects across the country.

"We're releasing a new plan for 11 more projects to accelerate from Boston South Station to Pensacola Bay Bridge, to new light rail projects north and south of Seattle," he said, adding that his order would cut "bureaucratic red tape that stalls good projects from breaking ground."

The push comes as the federal Highway Trust Fund is rapidly dwindling, setting up a so-called "transportation cliff" toward the end of August. Fueled by gasoline taxes, the fund hasn't been able to keep up with spending demands as Americans spend less on fuel.

Meanwhile, America's highways and bridges - and other critical parts of the nation's transportation infrastructure such as railways - need serious upgrades and repairs. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives U.S. infrastructure a D+ in terms of condition and performance.

In Washington, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California put forward a transportation bill earlier this week in the Senate that has received some Republican support. But there has been little support in the Republican-controlled House.

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus responded to the President's criticism, saying, "We already tried President Obama's effort to fix our country's infrastructure through his failed $830 billion stimulus. If the President is looking for a shovel-ready project, then he can get moving on the Keystone Pipeline which will create thousands of American jobs."

Wednesday evening the President attends two Democratic Party fundraisers in New York. On Thursday he is scheduled to address the dedication ceremony at the 9-11 Museum in New York City, before returning to Washington.

CNN's Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak and Dana Davidsen contributed to this story.

Filed under: New York • President Obama
soundoff (668 Responses)
  1. Gunderson

    Just how many buckets of oats in horse years do you think that will cost? Or with the 29 Hour Work Week how long do you think it will take? I believe the Till is empty so where do we get the funds? Food Stamps???

    May 14, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. rla

    Obama you and the progressives have BANKRUPT the nation with your stupid social policies- WHERE do you expect to get the moneY? Print, borrow or tax??? Guess what if you had any idea how to create anything but government jobs this would have been solved several years ago!! You are a community organizer and that is the level that you exist at... Did you notice the Russians are pulling out of the space station by 2020 and moving on to something better- Your plans for space are???

    May 14, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. Thomas

    Republicans don't want modernization , quality of life , functionality .

    They want more billionaires who bank over seas and pay less taxis ,fly private jets to the golf course and sent there children to private schools .

    While China is building railroads and bridges in Africa , America can fix there roads and bridges , and the railroads we have are only for moving coal and oil .

    America was once great , now we think of Ted Cruz or Rand Paul as symbols of greatness and eldership.

    May 14, 2014 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  4. The Truth

    " Fueled by gasoline taxes, the fund hasn't been able to keep up with spending demands as Americans spend less on fuel. "

    Wait, I thought we were supposed to cut back on fuel to save the planet?

    May 14, 2014 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  5. Rick

    Well, you shouldn't have wasted nearly $1 trillion on a "stimulus" that didn't "stimulate" instead. Can't borrow and spend the money on something else THEN claim you want to spend it elsewhere.

    May 14, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  6. vidal808

    Good luck Mr. President....the brain death Republicans are hardly in any position to do anything positive for this country. Sad to say but unless the GOP gets a brain transplant our infrastructure will continue to crumble.

    May 14, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  7. Bill

    He could start by using the money AF1 burns and put it in the shovel ready fund.

    May 14, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. Dan from Mass

    Obama says we need to rebuild roads and he gets stopped because we need to build the keystone pipeline first??? How about we fix our roads and bridges, THEN we can kill the environment a little more with the pipeline.

    May 14, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. Trollolol

    I like infrastructure spending. How about you only qualify for welfare if all men over 18 receiving it and able to work are put to work on these projects? "The world needs ditch diggers" Yes we do, yes we do, and YES THEY CAN, YES THEY CAN.

    May 14, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. Dan

    "My favorite president happens to have been a Republican – a guy named Abraham Lincoln..."
    Guess you forgot that Lincoln's Republican Party is now known as the Democratic Party.

    May 14, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. Jolat

    That was my first thought. What about the trillion dollar bailout from 5 years ago?

    May 14, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. westvillageblog

    The best estimate for permanent jobs related to the Keystone pipeline is somewhere between 30 and 200 jobs. "Thousands" is sheer hyperbole. A project to move the dirtiest and most dangerous cargo across American farmlands and towns, to refine it and ship it to China is hardly in American interests.

    May 14, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  13. Winning

    No way, everything should be a toll road! TIME TO PRIVATIZE THE HIGHWAY SYSTEM. In a race to drag the country to an era resembling Medieval Europe, this is the quickest way to divide the country into a million little fiefdoms. Privatize everything! Nothing would make the wealthy happier, we should all be serfs anyway. BENGHAZI!!!!!!!

    May 14, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. Bill from GA

    American voters need to write their Congressmen and tell them to immediately renew the Federal Transportation Act. This will only keep the current status of barely maintaining our highways. Then Congress needs to work on rebuilding and updating our transportation system. This will benefit the entire country, and create jobs.

    Included in the measure should be strict enforcement on hiring ONLY legal workers, using E-Verify and Form I-9. Anyone providing false information, and any contractor not in compliance, should face serious criminal penalties. Maybe these measures would get a few republicans on board.

    May 14, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. PoliticsFirstCountryLast

    Obama should cut of highway funding and all federal funding to red states immediately. First, those of us in the blue states are sick of carrying them; second, they are supremely ungrateful, and third, we all know by now they HATE being net "takers". And, a new move by Obama to finally put politics first and The People last, would impress Repubilcan leaders who have been following that path for years.

    May 14, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Chuck

    The party of NO. Wait till we have a structural failure and people die. Oh what a tangled web we weave when we are STUPID.

    May 14, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. halfpint_15_52

    Why didn't you use all that money you just gave to fix mosques in other countries to fix our own roads and bridges? This guy has no common sense at all.

    May 14, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  18. Steve

    At least fill the 2 ft in depth pot holes...... Sheesh....

    May 14, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  19. Aerosgrl

    But, but those are just temporary jobs... Aren't they?

    May 14, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  20. rep

    Republicans have little interest in doing anything that might benefit the country simply because it's Obama doing the asking. Even those things that you'd think no one should be apposed to.

    I honestly believe that if Obama actively opposed building roads, fixing collapsing bridges, and creating jobs in the process, the GOP would actually try to get those things done.

    May 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  21. James Klimaski

    Priebus knows the Keystone pipeline is a one time project the will only employ a couple of thousand workers for less than a year. A pipeline that will primarily be carrying his employer's oil as the Koch Brothers own much of the shale oil in the Canadian fields that depend on this pipeline.

    President Obama is talking about rebuilding this Country while the Republican leadership is letting it rot.

    May 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  22. Marcus

    Tear down this bridge. LOL Sounds like he's trying to steal Reagan's thunder when he told Berlin to tear down tis wall. LOL

    May 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. rs

    Unfortunately for our friends on the Right, rebuilding America IS a partisan issue. They tear at the fabric of America's infrastructure very much the way they tear at the function of government- which is to say they break it, then say "see: it isn't any good anyway".

    The problem is the GOP is stuck on cut-taxes-and-spend to maintain permanent debt, to to keep their rich patrons happy.

    May 14, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. Bill from GA

    Reince Priebus – "get moving on the Keystone Pipeline which will create thousands of American jobs."

    The project would create about 2,000 short-term construction jobs over two years or about 3,900 if construction took only a year. But it sure would help those Chinese get the Canadian oil a lot cheaper, at the risk to OUR environment.

    I assume by Reince's comment he and his repug cohorts are against keeping our roads useable, for the people of THIS country.

    May 14, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  25. Pedro

    "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this bridge!" Not even close, Mr. President. I miss RR!

    May 14, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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