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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    There are very few things that I agree with Obama on but this is one of them. The highway infrastructure has to be fixed. Republicans who oppose this strictly on budget concerns are missing the boat. I hate what the Dems have done to the deficit but we have to find a way to fix this.

    May 15, 2014 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  2. Tourist

    Mr Obama why are so many tourist visas being declined in China? Wouldn't tourism help boost the American economy? Chinese want to spend their RMB in USA but 95% of them, unless you're a student or an old married senior, are all being denied. This is lost money due to the loss of tourism.

    May 15, 2014 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  3. Coffee Party

    I bet if we offer to privatize the roads by selling them off to a few rich guys the GOP will vote 100% in favor it.

    But anything that benefits the common man without greasing the pockets of the 1% is criminal in the minds of the GOP.

    May 15, 2014 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  4. vikachi

    Theres,faith,hope n love.but the greatest of these is love. harsh words beget harsh words. but the blind leading the blind,will get u both in a dich.! spend it. spend whats not some of thouse $ 1 trillon coins that r backed with dept.n amount will change the so called rep. n dem.cronies.there da same just dif.ways of inslavement.n greed.silly rabbits there tricks are for rigs.

    May 15, 2014 03:32 am at 3:32 am |
  5. Greg

    You tell them Mr. President!!! I vote for you again if it were possible.

    May 15, 2014 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  6. Bill

    Yes let's spend more money we don't have and keep the false Obama economy afloat.

    May 15, 2014 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  7. OldAsDirt

    If infrastructure truly is a priority, the President should lead the way in re-prioritizing spending to divert from lower-priorities. Suggesting that this is something requiring new/more money ignores that taxpayers are paying much more per-cap in equivalent dollars than when Eisenhower was starting the Interstate system. Tax rate debates are a ruse by those who'd rather find more money than better manage/invest what we already pay.

    May 15, 2014 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  8. Rob

    Why did he have to fly into the Wall Street heloport, and then take a car to tarrytown in rush hour? He does this constantly. Comes to NYC and shuts everything down for his presence. He can't schedule himself to avoid rush hour?

    May 15, 2014 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  9. Donny

    Yet we give money away to foreign governments like it growns on trees.

    May 15, 2014 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  10. Jerry

    This guy's rhetoric id getting REALLY, REALLY stale. HE claims (promises) to work across the isle, but when HIS offer is accepted; as usual, HE backs down and goes on the attack.

    Can anyone really expect the opposing party to trust and respect HIM?!

    Lying DOES eventually catch up with people. When the Américan populace loses trust in an elected official (0-Bama), it is very difficult, maybe impossible to regain that trust.

    I for one am thrilled that América is starting to wake up from its slumber!

    May 15, 2014 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  11. Solomon Walker

    Washington Irving Boat Club speech on suggesting that America build new bridges
    "Give me liberty or give me death!"

    The contrast is beyond compare.

    May 15, 2014 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  12. hkirwin


    Even as a caonservative I look at the state of our infrastructure and see that we have to start updating roads and bridges at a much faster pace or else we will hamstring the economy even further.
    No need to expand roads when only a few fortunate to have a job uses them. Obama's policies have created this mess. I hope the next President can fix it.

    May 15, 2014 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  13. hkirwin


    So, ground Air Force One? Really? THAT'S your solution? You should be President with so many brilliant ideas! Maybe when you move out of your trailer park and get an edumcation youll git smerter

    Why do stupid people think they are smart????

    May 15, 2014 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  14. stambo

    Well, you could build shiny new roads..but to go where? Gas prices are not getting cheaper. Maintenance costs of the roads and bridges is not getting cheaper. The businesses that produce have left, they don't need the roads. Physical infrastructure has had to take a back seat to pay for the illusion of stability elsewhere, say feeding the largest number of people on food stamps in American history. Don't people understand that the money originally put aside to maintain these roads was used up? But of course the progressives think you just pull dollars off the money tree while the conservative mind realizes the money is gone.

    May 15, 2014 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  15. hkirwin



    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".
    All the money the red states have to pay is caused by the liberals who move to the red states and refuse to work because the government owes them a living.
    We have been carrying NY, CA, NM, NJ, MI, PA for years. Wake up!

    May 15, 2014 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  16. Dan

    Where are these funds going to come from, barrow more? Where was this outcry for good paying construction jobs when you stopped the Keystone Pipeline, or making it harder for any new oilfield drilling?

    May 15, 2014 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  17. King Barry

    Ah, unions need paying back so soon?

    May 15, 2014 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  18. scmtns

    Obama is making it partisan with his transportation plan, which spends 95% of transportation dollars in already-wealthy northeastern blue states and the west coast.

    May 15, 2014 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  19. Ace

    The stimulus included 30% in tax cuts, it was not entirely for infrastructure. Preibus is lying.

    May 15, 2014 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  20. BD70

    The keystone pipeline is not a critical piece of infrastructure. I am sure it will not fix a bridge if its built.

    May 15, 2014 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  21. ratsnack

    Obama's theory of economics is simalar to Boyles self filling flask.

    May 15, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  22. jdalco

    Sounds good to me, get rid of Obamacare and put that money to good use fixing our roads.

    May 15, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  23. chivana

    Years of spending taxpayer money foolishly has consequences .If a citizen balanced his checkbook the way our elected leaders choose he would be in prison or homeless.

    May 15, 2014 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  24. george

    King the idiot. He says the republicans are to blame for the current state of this country, someone should tell his Oliar and the democrats have been in power for six long years, seems like a monarchy. Foreign policy and the US reputation in the six years has gone from good to non-existent.

    May 15, 2014 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  25. Steve- Illinois

    So he picks this bridge as an example, except it's already being replaced. Apparently the location of his evening fundraiser was more important than the location of a bridge that actually needs replaceing.

    May 15, 2014 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
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