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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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. Trent

    Republicans are a joke. Stop embarrassing yourselves and the country.

    May 15, 2014 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  2. Deb Ed

    So says the community organizer.

    May 15, 2014 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  3. Richard

    Canada is on the verge of a balanced budget, despite the economic turmoil of the last 6 years. Fiscal management. The U.S. is wallowing in ever greater debt thanks to completely unrestrained spending without the income to support it. Ideas about $300 billion train-lines that will never see full use are the nails in the U.S. economic coffin.

    May 15, 2014 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  4. catori Shadi

    We have the vast majority of our roads & bridges due to fail soon. Maintenance was canceled by Bush, to help fun his wars & now they at a point of collapse and the GOP STILL doesn't want to repait them.

    May 15, 2014 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  5. pwanglee

    Good points regarding infrastructure development. There is a compelling argument that the federal government needs to be a bit paternalistic where the plurality of the votes might lead us down a path that may not benefit US society as a whole. In particular the federal government should probably oversee: infrastructure spending, an unemployment safety net, "reasonable" social services, a country-wide postal system, national defense, etc).

    Unfortunately infrastructure and defense are basically immaterial when compared to size of entitlement programs. The truly terrifying statistic is that since 2011, according to the US Census Bureau, there are more US citizens enrolled in entitlement programs than there are gainfully employed citizens. We are past the tipping point – the entitlement class outnumbers, and can thus out-vote, those that are adding value to our economy.

    Unfortunately, it is likely that the entitlement class will only grow larger. The safety net has morphed into a system that keeps certain minorities (predominantly Blacks and Hispanics) stuck in a vicious cycle of dependency on handouts, while DIS-incentivizing all Americans from working harder due to this country's progressive tax system (the more you make, the greater you are taxed).

    The terrible statistic is that Black and Hispanic unemployment generally is 2x that of Whites and 2x+ that of Asian-Americans. Why is it that other minorities (i.e.: Jews, Asians, Indians, Eastern Europeans) have a higher standard of living and employment?

    On the Red/Blue state issue: a recent (January 2014) George Mason University study gauged that the key Blue states, where the current entitlement practices are most rampant (in perpetuating the black and Hispanic underclass), are also the states closest to insolvency/bankruptcy: CA, NY, NJ, MA. While some might say, let these states go belly-up due to their failed social engineering, the sad truth is that the moderate, populist, libertarian, and conservative states will have to bail them out pay for the nations infrastructure, defense, etc.

    May 15, 2014 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  6. Bridge engineer

    The condition of the bridges In this country is apalling. Unfortunately, we as a country will not care until a few more bridges fall down. Now is the time to start fixing our infrastructure. It only gets more expensive the more we ingnore the problem. Republicans need to come up with an even more robust plan than the president, and not play politics with the Keystone pipeline, as we need both. Our water infrastucture is in terrible shape as well if anybody cares about clean water. For reference, see the American Society of Civil Engineers report card on our nations infrastructure, and demand demand our politicians do something we really need instead of whatever they are doing now.

    May 15, 2014 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  7. George

    Thank God for President Obama! ...

    May 15, 2014 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  8. Richard Lawrence Ray

    One of the Obama administration's ideas for raising infrastructure revenue, in ADDITION to an increased fuel tax, is to put toll booths on interstate highways that are currently free to travel on. While those of you in the Northeast might say "so what. I already pay to drive on I-95 in New Jersey or I-80 in Pennsylvania, the vast majority of the interstate system was built to be driven on free of charge. When toll booths go up, they hardly ever get torn down. And the kicker? The revenue generated by interstate tolls will NOT go back to rebuilding the interstate system, but will go to the states for LOCAL transportation projects, including city street repair and urban mass transit.

    May 15, 2014 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  9. Amy Edwards

    Shame on those GOP. All they care are oil and their own interests. Then they will blame Obama for the thousands of jobs and wages lost in construction industry because of their inaction.

    May 15, 2014 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  10. Matt

    Tear down this bridge and build another? Where did all the billions go from the stimulus? Oh that's right. Bridges like the New Bay bridge in California were outsourced and make in China.

    May 15, 2014 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  11. AndrussenK

    Why didn't the STIMULUS do that?!?!?!? There's a TRILLION we will never see again.

    May 15, 2014 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  12. RobS

    What fraction of the Highway Trust Fund is actually spent to improve highway infrastructure? If spending is increased, how much of that money will be spent to improve bridges and roads?

    With the renewed emphasis on on political pork (encourage by CNN), I have doubts about how this money will be spent.

    May 15, 2014 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  13. kelly rollins

    Where did Obama's "Shovel Ready" jobs go?

    Americans coughed up BILLIONS in stimulus money for infrastructure repair that Obama is now "Taking it to Republicans" on...

    "We The People" paid for this already in the stimulus!



    It's obvious that Americans didn't get their money worth on those Shovel Ready Jobs that were NEVER CREATED!


    Why are we being asked to fund more of nothing?


    May 15, 2014 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  14. Melvin Painter

    Lincoln would puke if he knew obama said his name.

    May 15, 2014 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  15. Coffeeclue

    I love the comparison of Keystone pipeline to the infrastructure. Yes, Keystone will create jobs, but how are we planning to deliver the goods that the newly rich people are going to buy? I'm a truck driver and I see the state of the American roads. I think Keystone can wait. Roads and bridges really can't.

    May 15, 2014 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  16. you know who

    Wait – doesn't the huge gasoline tax that we ALL pay across the nation on EVERY gallon of gas we buy pay for the bulk of highway construction and maintenance?

    May 15, 2014 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  17. Anonymous

    Obama who is going to pay for this. That's the question you have to answer. Sure we'd all love to just live in a perfect world where money grew on trees, but we do not. You have to find the money to pay for it and unfortunately the American people pay it. The conservative "Style" isn't to not update anything because we hate Obama if you think that you're a moron. The fact is things cost money and in a struggling economy and world economy sometimes its just not possible. Sure it will create jobs but the thing is for how long and at what COST.

    May 15, 2014 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  18. MrScott

    When Obama was a senator he did nothing, not even to suggest to improve the infrastructure. When Obama came to be president he was looking for "shovel ready" jobs virtually nothing for the infrastructure. Money was spent on many things afterwards but nothing. Obama has had a "focus" on many things but nothing for bridges or roads and the money went elsewhere. Now a new focus – infrastructure! He blames the GOP, but really the bank is empty, those that would loan money have been tapped bare, and the taxpayer is in debt past their kids.

    Obama, time to come and see the light the way things really are.

    May 15, 2014 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  19. MIke C

    This is another example of Obama's hypocrisy. One hand he calls on immediate action on climate change, yet he wants to continue spending on programs that encourages our car culture that is the main cause of climate change.
    The smart project would be reduce traffic on the bridge by discouraging driving. This could be done by employers that let more people work from home. This could reduce the CO2 emissions by a huge amount without spending any money. He could close the useless and money losing U.S. Postal service and take all those delivery trucks off the road. BUT he won't do any of these thing because all he wants are excuses to spend more money on projects designed to buy votes.

    May 15, 2014 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  20. Scott

    Shut up, Obama, you talk too much.

    May 15, 2014 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  21. mocasea

    Priebus: "We already tried President Obama's effort to fix our country's infrastructure through his failed $830 billion stimulus." Umm... that wasn't an infrastructure stimulus, that was a stimulus to keep our financial system from collapsing. A First Grader can Google that information.

    Anyone who thinks that this isn't another bipartisan play at politics is fooling themselves. Here we have a project, a proposal that makes sense and will influence the lives of even the most back-woods citizen. If a Bill passes that was proposed by the Democrats, then the Democrats have a leg up on the elections. Same if it is a Republican proposed bill. Also the republicans are trying to force votes for the Keystone pipeline (which among other things has been shot down by every major environmental and political group except big oil and the Republican Party). Keep those separate Republicans! This isn't about oil profits (which have no effect on 90% of Americans lives other than gas prices). This is about keeping the lifeline of America functioning!
    Myself, I drive almost 100 miles round trip four days a week to work. I have invested in a more fuel efficient vehicle (and my average monthly fuel bill still exceeds $150 for just that!), but the roads I drive on are absolutely horrible. It is not unusual to see cars swerving across lanes to dodge large pieces of the road that have broken free, potholes capable of destroying a tire, and other road conditions that make driving on road hazardous. And the road is an INTERSTATE! The state does what it can to fill the potholes and remove the debris, but the road itself is disintegrating. Why don't they fix it? No money...

    Congress, as a citizen and voter, I demand that you stop playing politics with my livelihood, my safety, and even possibly my LIFE. Start doing what we elected you in good faith to do. I could care less about your religion, your ideals of what would make this a moral country and demand you focus more on making this a FUNCTIONING country.

    May 15, 2014 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  22. Andrew

    Not only do roads and bridges need fixing. They now need to be wider and there need to be more of them because we're importing so many foreigners and increasing the population too much. On top of that people can't stop driving around for no reason and nobody wants to work where they live. Nobody has a population control plan either. Nobody wants to talk about it. It's like everybody knows that the bus is gonna crash but they don't know how to stop it or how to get off.

    May 15, 2014 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  23. Dan

    It is truly sickening how the GOP has destroyed this country in the last 10 years. How anyone can make improving our country's vital infrastructure partisan is beyond me. Historians point to several reasons for the fall of ancient empires, and they conclude that one of the biggest reasons for the decline of the Roman Empire was its lack of reinvesting in its world-class infrastructure. Rome was literally crumbling all around itself.

    May 15, 2014 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  24. j0eschm0e1

    Bill from GA
    Why are you still blaming the republicans? Isnt obummer in charge for 5 years now? All you people whining about republicans is getting old. Obama is in charge, whine to him. This is just another useless enflaming article aimed to devide us further. If Obama didn't grow the government exponentially it would have been a little easier. Gas prices were under 2.00 with bush. With the 2.00 gas hike obummer cant get nothing done?? Only to bury the U.S. from 4.5 trillion, to over 17 trillion in debt... Thanks obama... not... wait for it.... blame bush again...not

    May 15, 2014 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  25. Jay

    What do republicans need roads and bridges for? Don't they just fly everywhere on their jets paid for by big oil money?

    May 15, 2014 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
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