May 14th, 2014
04:55 PM ET
7 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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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. douglord

    Whaaaaaaa. Give me more $$ or your bridges will fall down. LONDON Bridges all fall dawn, all fall down, all fall down. SEE! Al Gore said so.

    May 15, 2014 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  2. Michael

    Obama has failed the Country so bad that an attack from a forign. Country could not match. All his promises turned out to be lies, all of "yes we can" chants were lies. The Obamacare is the biggest fail this great nation could face. After 3 months of trying my son can not get the site work or gets kicked off in the middle. With his race comments on TV whenever there is a white – Black minor issue, he has decided the nation more than ever and he keeps getting pushed by smaller countries anywhere in the World. I miss my Country that he ruined

    May 15, 2014 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  3. Flipper56784

    Why would Obama want improved roads and bridges? That encourages people to drive even more and for longer distances and that causes even more climate change, do you not care about our planet? Ride a bike or walk please. We would like a planet for future generations.

    May 15, 2014 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  4. wkb2texans

    Amazing how anyone can give Obama the slightest of respect. He continues to blame Republicans for EVERY ailment, sickness, and panty wad that comes along. I'm surprised he wasn't able to squeeze in GWB's name. This country is in shambles politically and financially, and the idiot wants to spend billions more. ANYONE with any sense would never do this with their personal finances, but when you're spending someone else's money (and their future generation's money) you don't really care ... or at least this bozo doesn't. Man, the Nov elections cannot get here early enough!!

    May 15, 2014 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  5. Harrybaby

    He's getting pretty desperate quoting Republican presidents!

    May 15, 2014 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  6. Patricia

    Ha ! I bet bringing up Lincoln's opinion is really going to convince the Republicans.

    May 15, 2014 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  7. Edmund Charles

    Everyone agrees that we need more and better maintained roads. Yet what becomes of the mass of funding already being collected for our roadways? Every year in the Northeast after winter, it is pothole heaven in this part of the country.

    Let's think bolder too! How about starting a dual Interstate Highway system for trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles. We also need to get more passenger routes on Amtrak.

    May 15, 2014 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  8. ELSIE GANZON

    DON'T MAKE ME LAUGH – what exactly happened to the funding to put jobs in UNITED STATES oh silly me they were donated to the tune of 18 Billions Dollars to UKRAINE dam could I have a billion to go to Hawaii and get a birth certificate, and mansion, and new car, and new surf board?

    May 15, 2014 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  9. Bill

    Why not legalize marijuana and use the taxes from that pay for Infrastructure?

    May 15, 2014 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  10. Ryan Farnham

    Sorry to say Mr. President, but the republicans have made it clear, if they do not get their way, they are holding the country hostage and are going to do as much damage as they can like little children throwing temper tantrums, they are and have been committed to destroying this nation because they don't like the way it's headed and refuse to adapt to changing times in any way, they want to destroy and start over from scratch, it's all they got left.

    I don't play the partisan politics game, the only way this country can truly move on is a direct democracy, maybe then I'd care enough to vote, until then I tend to examine and see the broader picture and sit and watch knowing if I voted it would be wrong no matter which side I choose because I'd always be going against someone directly and that is something I will not do. It's time for a true civilized country, one built on tolerance and mutual respect for our fellow humans, oh wait, wasn't that kinda what we were supposed to have already? FAIL.. Fail because having an outdated republic system where a constitution is etched in stone holds back progress and change and it's a law of reality that everything changes with time and has to change to adapt and renew or it will fail, the way things are setup right now guarantee failure and eventually civil war due to it. Basically I consider the USA now to be an over cooked turkey, stick a fork in it, it's done.

    May 15, 2014 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  11. stormstrike

    This article gives the impression that New York's Tappan Zee Bridge was "fast tracked" when in fact it's taken more than 25 YEARS of meetings, environmental studies, engineering studies and procrastination to finally begin construction. For context, a local New York paper published a report in which a bridge engineer said he won't let his daughter drive on the Tappan Zee, and that was more than a decade ago. A decade!

    The primary reason the TZB is finally funded is, ironically, because of partisan politics. Past presidents (Obama included, in his first term) were disinclined to provide federal funding for the bridge for a variety of reasons - New York's governor didn't belong to the right party (Pataki), the governorship was consumed by scandal (Spitzer), the sitting governor was a temporary fill-in (Paterson), etc.

    In 2010, the Democratic party forced Paterson to abandon his campaign in favor of Cuomo, Obama's preferred candidate. In return, Cuomo heavily campaigned for Obama in NYS in the 2012 election, and the bridge funding is Obama's payback to Cuomo, so Cuomo can claim the new bridge as part of his legacy.

    Don't for a second think that the bridge was funded out of altruism or Obama's sense of doing the right thing - it's all about payback for services rendered in past election years. So when CNN publishes a story like this without the proper context, it looks as if Obama is willing to pour billions of federal funding into any worthy infrastructure project when in reality that couldn't be further from the truth. The only projects he's funding are in states run by governors who bent the knee to him.

    May 15, 2014 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  12. Your Mom

    Flying vehicles make a lot more sense

    May 15, 2014 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  13. EchoDeltaEcho

    For any thing that President Obama wants, the Republican response is "I'm agin' it!" Remember, this is the party whose chairman said that his number 1 goal was to limit President Obama to 1 term in office, before the President-Elect had been sworn in.

    May 15, 2014 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  14. curious_sixty_two

    A big fan of Barack Obama, I am not. But, if there is one federal spending project that Republicans - as the President said, "from Lincoln to Eisenhower to Reagan" - have always agreed, it was the U.S. Highway Trust Fund. Reince

    Priebus is nothing but a tool of the GOP and he should be ashamed of himself for spouting the line of the old, decrepit out of touch leadership currently in control. But, there is a train coming. Free market, free mind, true freedom loving Republicans that are going to steamroll over these dinosaurs. Get out of the way or become road kill. Your choice!

    May 15, 2014 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  15. ELSIE GANZON

    king

    do you realize how much we owe CHINA? United States government borrow/spend plan is a total fiasco and the Washington D.C., Senators/Congressmen claim they have law degrees? Really I need one of those things.

    May 15, 2014 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  16. guest

    there's a massive wreck looming on the road to the 2016 election... it's called the midterm elections

    and the truck driver who caused the crash on that road...

    is barack hussein obama

    May 15, 2014 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  17. Log

    Absolutely agree that both sides should be able to come together on this issue. Review projects, prioritize and start making stuff happen.

    May 15, 2014 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  18. DC Johnny

    Says the president who added $1T to the federal spending baseline in the form of a perpetual stimulus designed for a one-time boost to the economy as "shovel-ready job spending".... and then admitted years later that only a fraction of that money went to those kinds of projects.

    This. President. Is. A. Joke. Period (actually, 6 periods).

    May 15, 2014 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  19. ELSIE GANZON

    A thought enters my mind Gravina bridge and the less-famous Knik Arm bridge. Both bridges go to low-population areas and are labeled "bridges to nowhere."Biden and Obama vote for the $286.4 billion highway bill, with the Gravina bridge and the other projects included. H.R. 3058: (Sec. 186) Makes available to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities for eligible surface transportation projects, subject to specified conditions, any amounts otherwise available under SAFETEA-LU for the Gravina Island bridge and the Knik Arm bridge.

    think about it

    Sources

    United States House of Representatives and United States Senate. H.R. 3: Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. 109th Congress, 1st session. 29 July 2005.

    United States House of Representatives and United States Senate. H.R. 3058: Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006. 109th Congress, 1st session. 20 Oct. 2005.

    Coburn, Tom. SA 2165 to H.R. 3058. 109th Congress, 1st session. 20 Oct. 2005.

    Bowlen, Scott. "'Why I should be governor': Halcro, Palin, and Knowles make their pitches." Ketchikan Daily News. 21 Sep. 2006.

    State of Alaska, Office of the Governor. "Gravina Access Project Redirected." 21 Sep. 2007.

    ABC News. "Excerpts: Charlie Gibson Interviews GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin." 12 Sep. 2008.

    Nather, David. "Party's Mantle No Smooth Fit for McCain." CQ Weekly. 11 Feb. 2008.

    ABC News. "The Iowa Debates: Republican Candidates." 5 Aug. 2007.

    Nagourney, Adam. "McCain Tells Conservatives G.O.P.'s Defeat Was Payback for Losing 'Our Principles.'" The New York Times. 17 Nov. 2006.

    May 15, 2014 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  20. Catharticus in Portland

    "Not that long ago, Americans were willing to pay to build and maintain a Great Country. We didn't like it, but we realized that it was necessar"

    LOL. The people who are electing the Democrats aren't the ones who paid the taxes back then, if you get my drift.

    May 15, 2014 02:36 am at 2:36 am |
  21. froggy

    If the rich paid tax we could rebuild our infastructure

    May 15, 2014 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  22. ghost

    Nothing will get done until after November 2014. They will pass a short term fix until then. The GOP is becoming a thing of the past. In 2016 they will be!!!!!

    May 15, 2014 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  23. again he misses

    HE is comparing things that are apples to oranges,.. Lincoln and railroads to now??? LOL sorry quit fear mongering and lying to us for once,... yes we need some repairs,. some roads are no longer main avenues and need to be no longer funded, etc,... the main problem really is that in the 60's and 70's we built a road network that is unsustainable, and added to it every year

    May 15, 2014 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  24. Loren

    Leave it to the government to spend $1 Billion on a $500 million dollar highway. Americans are waking up and see that the government can't perform it's basic functions. We have a government that rather hand out welfare checks and food stamps then maintain our space program and pay Russia to send our satellites and astronaughts into space. No wonder Americans are sick of giving there hard earned money to a wasteful bloated government that uses its power to spy on it's own people

    May 15, 2014 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  25. vikachi

    $58.bill.a year! close to what our gov.spends on spying on us.?china is going the same rout as us n the ussr went.were both broke.soon thay will start waring around like us n ussr to keep there card house up like us too.the money is not there. not anywere.#s dont add up for a long time now.n #s dont lie.& most of u on here sound just like the ones in washington.???sinking ship of fools.

    May 15, 2014 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
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