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The President spoke at the Washington Irving Boat Club just north of New York City, using the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop.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

    Republicans are hoping the USA will fall. I will never vote GOP again in my life.

    May 14, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Why not let the States raise and spend their own transportation funds. Why must everything be funded at the Federal level?

    May 14, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  3. Mike

    How about investing in pavement technology for the northeast (and other areas where cracks and pothole crop up everywhere from the freeze thaw cycle)? I can't begin to add up the $millions or $billions wasted on re-paving every 5-7 years so many highways and side roads. Can't someone come up with a material that stretches/shrinks with the climate without falling apart?

    May 14, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  4. Yochanan.

    Why can't New York pay for it's own bridges?

    May 14, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  5. WEC from PA

    Hint to our great Spender-in-Chief: the Republicans would also like to boost our infrastructure. Like Lincoln, Eisenhower, and others, everyone (on both sides of the aisle) recognizes our transportation byways are crucial. The problem is with Obama's technique. Our great leaders of the past got things done through hard work and cooperation. Jetting off on Air Force One and grandstanding at a press conference to bash the other party isn't how a leader is supposed to lead. Secondly, great leaders propose solutions. Rebuilding bridges, constructing high speed rail lines, upgrading school Internet, all make great sound bites for the evening news. But without a viable plan to pay for them, it's just more WH promises and spending us further into debt.

    May 14, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  6. Great American

    just tear down everything, right Obama? Tear down the ACA while you're at, why doncha?

    May 14, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  7. Kevin

    Ummmmmm...... does anyone else remember an over trillion dollar "stimulus" that Obama pushed and passed that was supposed to be for "shovel ready" jobs ? A lot of bridges could have been built with that. Instead that money was used for political paybacks, trinkets and pork.

    May 14, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  8. Jim

    So he stands in front of a bridge that is being replaced and challenges the Republicans to replace it? In an administration dominated by symbolism, was this the best choice?

    May 14, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  9. Stop wasting time

    I seriously don't understand why congress can't get this done.

    May 14, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  10. toydrum

    @Chuck: "Wait till we have a structural failure and people die." That won't even faze these selfish fools that are trying to turn this country into an oligarchy. They would just shrug and blame somebody else.

    What might get their attention is when they start losing money because they can't get any products to market because the interstate system is too badly damaged to move goods cross-country.

    May 14, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  11. Wild Omar

    Hmmm… great idea. Let’s rebuild the bridge and pay for it with a check from the DNC. You know. One that pays the American Taxpayer back for the money wasted on the 34 renewable energy companies that tanked on their high risk government loans. Let’s see, that would be Evergreen Solar ($25 million), SpectraWatt ($500,000), Solyndra ($535 million), Beacon Power ($43 million), Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million), SunPower ($1.2 billion), First Solar ($1.46 billion), Babcock and Brown ($178 million), EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million), Amonix ($5.9 million), Fisker Automotive ($529 million), Abound Solar ($400 million), A123 Systems ($279 million), Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981), Johnson Controls ($299 million), Brightsource ($1.6 billion), ECOtality ($126.2 million), Raser Technologies ($33 million), Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million), Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million), Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million), Range Fuels ($80 million), Thompson River Power ($6.5 million), Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million), Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million), GreenVolts ($500,000), Vestas ($50 million), LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million), Nordic Windpower ($16 million), Navistar ($39 million), Satcon ($3 million), Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million), Mascoma Corp. ($100 million). Questions?

    May 14, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  12. WEC from PA

    Didn't we invest a Trillion $ (with a T) in shovel ready jobs for rebuilding our infrastructure 5 years ago? Can we get an accounting of how successful Obama was with that? How many Trillion is he looking for this time? Can we see any of it go to non-union workers who would be happy to work for a fair wage?

    May 14, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  13. fzmello

    Meh. Bridges just contribute to global warming anyway. Hell, tear down several!

    May 14, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  14. olepi

    Does the GOP believe you only get to have a bridge if you can pay for it? Only the rich have good bridges?

    What's wrong with the *country* building bridges for itself?

    May 14, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  15. Bill

    six years of Obama and no jobs. He tried this years ago and it didn't work

    May 14, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  16. Logan

    It's a joke to the oppossition of president Obama's goal in mind. Look at the redicule – placing America hostage by Republican interest – Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus says "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."

    Those Republicans in charge and those wealthy investors surely care themselves about being wealthy.. Damn Corruption.

    What about bulding the bridges of America (tomorrow's future)? What really affects us the most, is those who care less about their duties, and, more about their pockets (oil surelly feeds those pockets)...

    Unless this is altered for betterment, we Americans, will feel the flow of problamatics.

    May 14, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  17. liberal disease

    Obama told republicans' to sit in back of the car we are driving', he also said elections have consequences, you built this bridge barry with tax payer money!! you have some set of stones!!

    May 14, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  18. Spa City

    The Tappan Zee Bridge replacement is being funded through a corrupt deal to borrow money from Labor Union pension funds at an artificially high interest rate (i.e. a hidden kickback to the Labor Unions, who will be paying money to the politicians via Lobbyists and "Consultants"). It is a New York State project, and NY State money will pay for it. Obama is smart enough to know that, so his use of the Tappan Zee Bridge to illustrate why FEDERAL money needs to be spent on highway and bridge infrastructure shows Obama to be a liar. He knows the TZ Bridge is not a federal project.

    May 14, 2014 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  19. outawork

    Let's spend more money we don't have.....

    May 14, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  20. PoliticiansREvil

    What happened to all those trillions of stimulus that went to "shovel ready jobs" that created or saved millions of imaginary Obama jobs to aid the imaginary Obama great economy? I mean we spent millions putting up highway signs to slap himself on the back why didn't that money or the billions in cash for clunkers or the other wastes go to fix the Obama bridge to no where for no one for nothing bought with nothing? How about scrapping ACA you could of building every bridge in America again and still ensured the uninsurable with some miniscule addition to the Medicare bill............but it wouldn't be some albatross that isn't even fully implemented and is still costing the US taxpayers billions.

    May 14, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  21. PoliticiansREvil

    Trillions to the stimuls for Shovel ready jobs .............that instead went to Obama cronies (like Solyndra, Sorros, Brazil?) and vast wastes why not recover some of that to fix your bridge you bumbling horrible leader liar divider?

    May 14, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  22. JC

    So the GOP is the bad guys because they don't want to see anymore union projects get funded by foreign borrowing, huh? Anytime the GOP has an opinion on something it's labeled as blatant obstruction, and the reasons why they object no longer matter. In the past 3 years alone we have spent $250 billion in roads projects that weren't stimulus dollars. That puts the total spent from borrowing on roads projects at over a trillion. Why is that a bad thing? Because 16% of the projects on the infrastructure funds priority list get funded but don't actually get completed. Heck, they don't even get started.

    May 14, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  23. Richard Ghue

    "Obama took Republicans to task several times for not approving funds that would replenish the nation's Highway Trust Fund, "
    So where do they waste the funds they collect daily from the gasoline tax already? I swear if we pay in $5 they give us back a $1 in results and $4 in waste. Some of you think giving them more money is the solution? You should have your head examined.

    May 14, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. chickcharles

    If Obama would focus on Americans (and not illegals), American interests (and not Ulraine's) , bringing jobs back to US shores (and not the shores of 3rd World countries), Quit killing working Americans, so that non-working lazies can sit on their duff, maybe I would listen to him. The only thing I see that has happened since he went in office is that my taxes have increased, our healthcare system is totally screwed, and we are so far in debt that we will never get out. Obama, Reid, Biden, Pelosi, and the rest of these frauds must go!

    May 14, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  25. Mike500

    Not that long ago entitlements didn't eat up 60% of the budget either. In fact back when Ike built the Interstate Highway System, they were only 20% of the budget. Entitlements have crowded out a lot of other spending, both military and non-military. Their share is projected to grow as well. Rather than raising taxes, we should be reforming entitlements. There is $60B in fraud EVERY YEAR in Medicare. That's more than we spend on the highways. Before asking us for more, how about making sure what we already pay isn't wasted?

    May 14, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
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