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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    I reckon the Republicans strategy of blocking/disruption/sabotage of Obama has worked. Sometimes thay critisize him after negating him (Embassy security, Benghazi, is a case in point). Maybe it has been great for the USA.

    May 15, 2014 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  2. Gerard

    Tear down this wall was made in reference to the the Berlin Wall which signified unity for millions in East and West Germany at the time. Not the same thing as a bridge. Nice try Barry.

    May 15, 2014 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  3. Chuk

    "The American Society of Civil Engineers gives U.S. infrastructure a D+ in terms of condition and performance." Question: what would they give to US spending on arms? Answer: A+. Yes, when it comes to spending huge amounts on arms with no questions asked these Republicans have no problem with that. Anyone who questions that is not considered patriotic. Go figure.
    And that idiotic Priebus thinks building keystone will fix broken bridges? Whoa.

    May 15, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  4. Anonymous

    this man is a disgrace......blame blame...divide..divide.....why dont you come up with solutions and stop blaming people for your shortcomings. Maybe you should start think about being President to al Americans not just your 50%. 3 more years of this guy...OMG!

    May 15, 2014 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  5. Tammy

    Potholes, crumbling bridges, narrow streets, etc. If I need to pay and extra dime for a gallon of gas to fix these problems, I have no problem with that. It should be a shared expense by all who use our nations infrastructure. Stop whining and just do it! And stop bashing the President for bringing this issue to the forefront. That is part of his job. If he didn't, you would gripe about that, too.

    May 15, 2014 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  6. rl

    Brian Fejer, yes they are, so don't use them or the electric company, police, fire and Emergency Medical services. Don't expect to be protected by our military, just to name a few.

    I can agree with Lincoln and IKE, but greatly disagree with Reagan. He is the one that laid the ground work for the Tea Bag party, and the destruction of the United States that most of us care about. Reagan forgot where he came from., and how he got where he ended up.

    May 15, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  7. Futile Lord

    This is a great opportunity for the GOP to make a point about the way the government wastes taxpayers' money. The Tappan Zee Bridge is a toll road, and that money is supposed to be used to maintain and repair the bridge. The government collects about $350 million a year in tolls on the Tappan Zee. If the lifespan of a bridge is 60 years, and the tolls never increase, the government will collect about $20 billion in revenue from commuters who use the Tappan Zee Bridge. The estimated cost to repair the bridge is $6 billion, and another $6.5 billion to add lanes for trains. Surely, the government can fund the $12.5 billion in repairs and upgrades out of the $20 billion in revenue that it collects. But just like every tax that is collected, the money is used on other things, so when the bridge needs to be repaired, the taxman comes calling for more money. As a taxpayer and a commuter, I say enough already. Use the money that you are already collecting for bridge maintenance to actually maintain and repair the bridge.

    Want another example? The NJ Turnpike collected almost $1 billion in toll revenue in 2012, and spent $350 million on maintenance. It generated a $650 million profit! And yet, the tolls increased 50% at the beginning of the year. Rather than berating republicans, President Obama should be demanding accountability for the money that is already being paid by the taxpayers.

    May 15, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  8. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    These aren't those republicans Mr. President. Those presidents you listed would be primaried by a teatard candidate if they were around today.

    May 15, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  9. jenn, philadelphia

    Wasn't the purpose of the stimulus package of 2009 to get the infrastructure fixed? You remember, all those "shovel-ready" jobs? If they didn't use the 1 trillion dollars for that, then what did they do with the money? And if they did use for what they promised, then it shouldn't be falling apart this soon.

    May 15, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  10. JJR

    The circus music and background laughter every time this POTUS opens his mouth is deafening

    May 15, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  11. ztarbod

    When the country is $17 trillion in debt, spending hundreds of billions on infrastructure becomes more difficult. Part of this deal is the massive corruption in DC, tremendous federal waste, and the democrats essentially shutting down the Senate.

    May 15, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  12. sherman

    He knows his sell thru date has expired. This IS an important issue so someone should have sold it know Tom Hanks or The Grateful Dead.

    May 15, 2014 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  13. tiz

    Why would I possibly listen to what Obama says? How could you possible trust this guy any more? Lame duck.

    May 15, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  14. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    When President Bush called for repairing our infrastructure the Conservatives cheered, calling it an economic motivator.
    When President Obama called for repairing our infrastructure the Conservatives booed, calling it socialism.
    When Presidents T. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush Senior called for a national health care system Conservatives cheered, calling it "caring for our own"
    When President Obama called for a national health care system Conservatives booed, calling it socialism.
    When President GW Bush instituted clandestine surveillance of Americans Conservatives cheered, calling it protecting us from terrorism.
    When President Obama inherited clandestine surveillance of Americans from the Bush Administration Conservatives booed, calling it socialism.
    When President Bush lost dozens of US Citizens in attacks on embassies and consulates Conservatives called them "casualties of war".
    When President Obama lost four people in an attack on a single consulate (the only ones in his entire Presidency) Conservatives called is supporting terrorism and demanded everybody's head on a platter.
    Can someone please show these people a mirror?

    May 15, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  15. Winston5

    Keep holding their feet to the fire, we DO need new roads/bridges...

    May 15, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  16. tv22

    Locally we could have added another lane to our local congested interstate at a cost of around $150M and it could be done now, but instead we have a toll road being awarded that will take longer to build and cost 3 or 4 times as much. Maybe if we got smart on these projects more people would support spending. At the current time Democrats, simply tell us what programs you're going to take this money from.

    May 15, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  17. Pete

    Hey posters where's the jobs your republicans ran on last election..It seemed they wanted what Pres.Obama is wanting all along but the difference here he's not blowing smoke like you republican hypocrites did...Too bad he can't use his executive orders to get some job,infastructure bills going to get people REAL JOBS....

    May 15, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  18. Dar

    How long have you been president Mr. Obama?? And you are still blaming the other guy. That may have worked for you in the past but now it is all on your shoulders sirs. Grow up and act like a man sissy boy.

    May 15, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  19. grichard1956

    Oh gosh! This is rich, what a joke Obama has become.

    May 15, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  20. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Office Pool answer to Richard....

    A whole lot of them!😊

    May 15, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  21. sonny chapman

    George W.'s Governing Principal was STARVE THE BEAST. Say NO to all Govt. Spending, except Military, Agriculture, Business "Loans". WE THE PEOPLE are the GOVERNMENT. Starve The Beast means Starving the People. We ALL sink or swim, Hang Together or Separately.

    May 15, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Shovel Ready Bridges-R-US

    For the love of God! PLEASE, not more of this insane infrastructure spending to try and pretend it helps the economy! My grand kids don't want to pay for this!! Stop spending their future and burying them in debt.
    Infrastructure spending has always been a bipartisan effort until Barack Obama was sworn in as POTUS. As recently as 2005, when Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress, a major infrastructure bill was passed with more than 40 Republican Senators voting in favor of it, and more than 210 Republican Representatives voting in favor of the bill.

    Suddenly, everything has changed. Infrastructure spending is now regarded by the right as stupid and wasteful. Meanwhile, we bridges falling apart all over the country. We saw a major interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis. On the east coast, we have seen a couple commuter rail bridges fail.

    The bridge that the President visited has been in a near constant state of repair for decades. It was built over 60 years ago, and had a design lifetime of merely 30 years. It experiences ten times the traffic volume than what was ever anticipated. The bridge spurred economic growth on the west side of the Hudson. More has been spent on repairing the outdated bridge than what will be spent to put up a new span.

    May 15, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  23. Introbulus

    "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."

    Translation: We aren't satisfied with our 830 billion dollar stimulus, and we want the Keystone Pipeline built, neither of which have anything to do with transportation infrastructure but make handy distractions from our lack of commitment to these projects.

    May 15, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  24. Trilobiteme

    if the Dems and the GOP don't want to work together maybe the American people should vote for a third party instead

    May 15, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. Let the People and our Diversity Be

    Symbolic of the intent of this President's faction.

    Neglect, undermine, and destroy our American Form of Government to build a new one.

    May 15, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
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