Why Obama, Part VI: InfrastructureFebruary 10, 2008
For the sixth installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the issue of America’s infrastructure. The format has been slightly altered this time around, as I am not posting something found on Obama’s website, but rather a position that is found with a simple Google search. This thread was inspired by this evening’s Lou Dobbs on CNN, who spent a fair amount of time covering the topic while featuring the story about the non-partisan “Building America’s Future Coalition”:
LOS ANGELES, CA – Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has joined forces with New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to improve our nation’s infrastructure. They announced a non-partisan coalition to address the problems in Los Angeles on Saturday.
It will be called “Building America’s Future Coalition,” and it will be made up of state and locally-elected officials. Governor Rendell said that in the past five years, Pennsylvania has increased state funding for bridge repairs by 300%, yet the number of structurally-deficient bridges has increased. He said the country can’t do without federal leadership.
“We, the governors, are going to focus like a laser, on infrastructure. This coalition is going to demand that the presidential nominees tell us what their position on infrastructure is and talk to them about what their goals and dreams are for building a better American infrastructure,” said Rendell.
Dobbs and Jesse Jackson spent a good portion of the show wondering why none of the prominent presidential candidates were addressing this issue. As someone who has been directly impacted by the effects of the 35W bridge collapse here in Minneapolis 6 months ago, I felt inclined to agree. The steady decay of our neglected roads, rails, bridges, water supply etc. threatens to cause more cultural and economic hardship (and even death) than any terrorist cell could ever dream to inflict. This is something that needs to be addressed, and soon. So, on a mission I went, and within a few seconds I found this (pdf):
Strengthen Core Infrastructure: As our society becomes more mobile and interconnected, the need for 21st-century transportation networks has never been greater. However, too many of our nation’s railways, highways, bridges, airports, and neighborhood streets are slowly decaying due to lack of investment and strategic long-term planning. Barack Obama believes that America’s long-term competitiveness depends on the stability of our critical infrastructure. As president, Obama will make strengthening our transportation systems, including our roads and bridges, a top priority.
Support Amtrak Funding: Barack Obama has been a strong supporter of federal financial support for Amtrak. Obama believes we need to reform Amtrak to improve accountability. In many parts of the country, Amtrak is the only form of reliable transportation. In the U.S. Senate, Obama is a cosponsor of the Passenger Rail Investment and Innovation Act of 2007, a leading act to provide long-term federal investment to Amtrak. As president, Barack Obama will continue to fight for Amtrak funding and reform so that individuals, families and businesses throughout the country have safe and reliable transportation options.
Support Development of High-Speed Freight and Passenger Rail: Barack Obama supports development of high-speed rail networks across the country. Providing passengers with safe high-speed rail will have significant environmental and metropolitan planning advantages and help diversify our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Our domestic rail freight capacity must also be strengthened because our demand for rail transportation has never been greater, leaving many key transportation hubs stretched to capacity. Obama is committed to renewing the federal government’s commitment to high speed rail so that our nation’s transportation infrastructure continues to support, and not hinder, our nation’s long-term economic growth.
Strengthen Metropolitan Planning to Cut Down Traffic Congestion: Barack Obama believes we must take steps at the front-end as well as the back-end of the planning process to cut down traffic congestion in our large and medium-size cities. Obama supported a measure authored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) to mandate states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies that incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of sidewalks and roads. As president, Obama will work to provide states and local governments with the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable communities…
It goes on, but I would take the point that Clinton also proposed a detailed plan addressing the issue about a week after the 35W incident. In the months afterwards, this kind of rhetoric has cooled somewhat, so I would agree with the coalition that it is an important issue that needs to be out there, but if it’s important to you it’s not like you can’t find statements from the candidates. Obama recognises the importance and scope of all this, and I’m pleased to see that he intends to make addressing the problems with America’s infrastructure a top priority.
Update: Also see my post: The Cost Of “Infrastructure” Vs. War