On Feb. 26, President Obama spoke at the historic Union Depot train station in St. Paul, Minn., where he launched a competition for $600 million in competitive transportation funding and outlined his vision for investing in America’s infrastructure with a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal.
The president will continue to act when he can to promote job growth in the transportation sector and put more Americans back to work repairing and modernizing our roads, bridges, railways, and transit systems, and will also work with Congress to act to ensure critical transportation programs continue to be funded and do not expire later this year.
A White House Fact Sheet included the following:
Launching competition for $600 million in TIGER competitive grants to fund transformative transportation infrastructure projects. Since the President took office, America has made historic investments to improve our nation’s infrastructure –including the highly successful Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program that has invested $3.5 billion in 270 projects across the country. Today the President is announcing that the U.S. Department of Transportation is making available $600 million in TIGER competitive grants to fund transportation projects. The TIGER grant program, which was initially funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was recently funded in the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed by the President on January 17th, 2014.
Proposing an aggressive four-year plan to modernize our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure. Despite progress over the last five years, there’s more work to do. Later this summer, the nation’s transportation system will be facing a funding crisis, which is why the President is committed to working with Congress, including Senators Boxer and Vitter and Representatives Shuster and Rahall, on a bipartisan solution. Today the President is outlining his vision for a comprehensive, long term plan that puts people back to work repairing our nation’s transportation infrastructure. The President will propose a four-year reauthorization of our surface transportation programs that will modernize our nation’s infrastructure and ensure the health and growth of these critical programs for the future while supporting millions of jobs.
Proposing a pro-growth, bipartisan approach to financing the President’s surface transportation plan. The President’s Budget will outline his proposal to dedicate $150 billion in one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform to address the funding crisis facing our surface transportation programs and increase infrastructure investment. This amount is sufficient to not only fill the current funding gap in the Highway Trust Fund, but increase surface transportation investment over current projected levels by nearly $90 billion over the next four years. When taking into account existing funding for surface transportation, this plan will result in a total of $302 billion being invested over four years putting people back to work modernizing our transportation infrastructure. The President is putting forward this pro-growth financing plan to encourage bipartisan efforts to support a visionary infrastructure plan, but is open to all ideas for how to achieve this important objective, and will work closely with Members of Congress of both parties on a solution that will invest in more job creating transportation projects. The President is also looking forward to working with Congress on bipartisan ideas to attract more private investment, such as a national infrastructure bank or the recent infrastructure financing authority proposal from Senators Warner and Blunt.
Launching Competition for $600 in TIGER Grants
Today, the President is announcing that the U.S. Department of Transportation is making available $600 million to fund transportation projects across the country under a sixth round of the highly successful TIGER competitive grant program. This funding and opportunity for governors, mayors, and other local leaders to partner with the Federal government is a result of the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act the President signed in January and an example of what progress is possible when Washington works together across partisan lines.
Since 2009 when the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that launched the program, the TIGER grant program has awarded $3.5 billion to 270 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – including 100 projects to support rural communities. These high impact investments have improved the nation’s road, rail, transit, and port systems, and supported multi-modal projects that efficiently connect these varying types of transportation modes. Demand for TIGER funds has been overwhelming, and the quality of applications has been high. During the previous five rounds, the U.S. Department of Transportation received more than 5,300 applications requesting nearly $115 billion for transportation projects across the country.
Supporting High-Value Transportation Projects Across the Country. The highly competitive TIGER program supports a range of projects, including roads, bridges, transit, rail, and ports, and offers one of the few Federal funding sources for game-changing projects that integrate different modes of transportation. The TIGER program invests in projects that will have a significant impact on the nation or a region, and Federal funds are used to make such projects possible and leverage additional funding from private sector partners, States, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit agencies.
Encouraging Improved Job Access and Increased Economic Opportunity. In an effort to expand economic opportunities for all Americans, the 2014 TIGER program will place an emphasis on projects that support reliable, safe, and affordable transportation options that improve connections for urban, suburban, and rural communities. While continuing to support projects of all types, a priority will be placed in this 6th round of applications on projects that make it easier for Americans to get to jobs, school, and other opportunities, promote neighborhood revitalization and business expansion, and reconnect neighborhoods that are unnaturally divided by physical barriers such as highways and railroads.
Prioritizing Transformative Projects. Successful projects in the highly competitive process will be those with the potential to improve economic competitiveness and create jobs, improve the condition of existing transportation systems, improve quality of life by increasing transportation options, improve energy efficiency, reduce fuel consumption and encourage resiliency, and/or improve the safety of our transportation systems.
$35 Million to Help Communities Design Economic Development Plans. In addition to supporting capital grants, Congress provided the U.S. Department of Transportation with the flexibility to use up to $35 million of the 2014 TIGER funds for planning grants for the first time since 2010. These funds can be used to support the planning of innovative transportation solutions, as well as regional transportation planning, freight and port planning, housing and land use development, and resiliency efforts that improve efficiency and sustainable community development.
The President’s Vision for 21st Century Transportation Infrastructure
The Highway Trust Fund that provides critical funding for repairing roads, bridges, and transit systems is projected to become insolvent later this summer, and the existing surface transportation bill expires in September. Moreover, the current way we fund our transportation investments is insufficient to meet the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs and grow our economy.
The President is committed to working on a solution that not only avoids a near-term funding crisis, but also provides stability and meet the pent-up transportation needs to help American families and workers and businesses in rural, suburban, and urban communities across the country.
The President’s vision, which will be described in his FY2015 Budget request, will create jobs, grow our economy, attract private investment, facilitate American exports, reduce commute times and increase access to jobs, make our roads and bridges safer, cut red tape, and increase the return on investment of transportation infrastructure for American taxpayers. The President is calling for a $302 billion, four year transportation reauthorization proposal that increases and provides stable funding for our nation’s highways, bridges, transit, and rail systems. The President is proposing one way to pay for this investment, by using $150 billion in one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform, but will work closely with Congress and listen to their ideas for how to achieve this important objective.
Proposing a $302 billion, Four Year Transportation Reauthorization Bill, Providing States, Local Governments, and Construction Workers with Certainty. The President’s proposal for a $302 billion, four year transportation reauthorization will not only allow States and local units of government to effectively plan their project pipelines, supporting millions of good paying jobs over the next several years, but also will enable more transformative transportation projects that improve our global competitiveness.
$63 billion to fill the funding gap in the Highway Trust Fund. The proposal will meet our nation’s essential highway, bridge, and transit needs in the near term by providing $63 billion to address the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund for four years.
Prioritizing “Fix-it-First” investments. The proposal will include policies and reforms to prioritize investments for much needed repairs and to improve the safety of highways and bridges, subways and bus services, with particular attention to improving roads and bridges in rural and tribal areas.
Matching Transportation Infrastructure Investments to the Current and Future Needs of American Communities. Bringing a one-time infusion of investment into our transportation infrastructure programs would enable projects that address the diverse needs of American communities today.
$206 billion to invest in our nation’s highway system and road safety. The proposal will increase the amount of highway funds by 22 percent annually, for a total of about $199 billion over the four years. The proposal would also provide more than $7 billion to improve safety for all users of our highways and roads.
$72 billion to invest in transit systems and expand transportation options. The proposal increases average transit spending by nearly 70 percent annually, for a total program of $72 billion over four years, which will enable the expansion of new projects (e.g., light rail, street cars, bus rapid transit, etc.) in suburbs, fast-growing cities, small towns, and aging rural communities, while still maintaining existing transit systems.
$19 billion in dedicated funding for rail programs. The proposal also includes nearly $5 of billion annually for high performance and passenger rail programs with a focus on improving the connections between key regional city pairs and high traffic corridors throughout the country.
$9 billion in competitive funding to spur innovation. The proposal will make permanent and provide $5 billion over four years, an increase of more than 100 percent, for the highly successfully TIGER competitive grant program and propose $4 billion of competitively awarded funding over four years to incentivize innovation and local policy reforms to encourage better performance, productivity, and cost-effectiveness in our transportation systems.
Encouraging coordination and local decision making. The proposal includes policy reforms to incentivize improved regional coordination and strengthen local decision making in allocating Federal funding so that local communities can better realize their vision for improved mobility.
Expanding Economic Growth, Jobs, and Opportunity. The President is dedicated to enhancing opportunity for all Americans and our businesses by investing in transportation projects that better connect communities to centers of employment, education, and services.
More than $2.6 billion and policy reforms to support the creation of ladders of opportunity. The proposal will include policy reforms to enhance existing highway and transit programs that help to create ladders of opportunity. Within the overall transit spending, the proposal provides $2.2 billion for a new bus rapid transit program for rapidly growing regions. It also includes $400 million to enhance the size, diversity, and skills of our nation’s construction workforce, while providing support for local hiring efforts and encouraging States to use their On-the-Job training funds more effectively.
$10 billion for a new freight program to strengthening America’s exports and trade. Recognizing the importance of efficient and reliable freight networks to support trade and economic growth, the President’s proposal will also create a new $10 billion multimodal freight grant program – in partnership with State and local officials and private sector and labor representatives – for rail, highway, and port projects that address the greatest needs for the efficient movement of goods across the country and abroad.
More Bang-for-the-Buck by Boosting Efficiency and Taxpayers Return on Our Transportation Investments. In a time of tight fiscal and budgetary constraints, the President’s proposal includes a number of measures to ensure that the American public is getting most out of Federal transportation infrastructure investments that lead to better outcomes for all Americans.
Improving project delivery and the Federal permitting and regulatory review process. The proposal will further advance and introduce new reforms to the project delivery system through a range of activities that institutionalize best practices and insights from the President’s previous Executive Orders and Presidential Memorandums to cut project timelines in half for major infrastructure projects by modernizing the Federal government’s infrastructure permitting and regulatory review process.
Building more resilient communities. Building on the Sandy Task Force recommendations, the proposal will also encourage more resilient designs for highway, transit, and rail infrastructure, and smarter transportation planning to reduce fuel use and conserve energy.
Encouraging and incentivizing cost effective investments. The proposal will strengthen the performance incentives to maintain safety and conditions of good repair, and expand research and technology activities in order to improve the productivity of our transportation systems, thereby increasing taxpayer return on investment.
$4 billion to attract private investment in transportation infrastructure. The proposal calls for continued funding of $1 billion in annual credit subsidy for the successful TIFIA loan program that, similar to other Administration proposals such as capitalizing a National Infrastructure Bank, creating American Fast Forward bonds, or enacting Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) reforms, will facilitate increased private investment in transportation infrastructure while protecting taxpayer interests.
President Barack Obama came to St. Paul on Wednesday to showcase the city’s newly refurbished Union Depot transit hub as an example of the kinds of transportation development he wants for the rest of the nation.
“This project symbolizes what’s possible,” Obama told a standing-room-only crowd of 1,300 ticketed enthusiasts in the 90-year-old Lowertown depot’s ornate concourse.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — President Barack Obama in a speech in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday urged Congress to pass a bill to fund infrastructure projects and investments.
Obama delivered the speech, his third consecutive talk on the economy, at the Port Terminal Building at Jacksonville Port, home to two projects the administration expedited — a container terminal and a rail yard, The Hill reported.
The following message was sent to the UTU National Legislative Office from Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo:
In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama spoke about the importance of investing in our infrastructure as a path to create new jobs and lay a foundation for America’s economic success.
In the last three years, American businesses have added 6 million new jobs, including a half-million in manufacturing. But there’s more to be done. And while construction jobs are often the most visible, our investments can continue remaking America as a magnet for manufacturing.
The report found 122 suppliers in Ohio, 99 in Indiana, 49 in Michigan, 84 in Illinois, 73 in Wisconsin, 26 in Minnesota and seven in Iowa. The Midwest is not alone. Railway suppliers are located in 49 out of 50 states and employ 94,000 people.
Manufacturers like Cleveland Track Material in Ohio are benefiting from the $12 billion the U.S. DOT has invested in passenger rail over the last four years. Started by Vietnam Veteran Bill Willoughby in 1984 in an impoverished section of Cleveland, the company was one of 53 across 20 states that received an order from Maine’s Downeaster service expansion project. Last year, Cleveland Track invested over $5 million in new production equipment at their plant. The company employs 300 people in Ohio, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.
Manufacturers are opening new plants in the United States. Recently, the state of California awarded the newly-opened Nippon Sharyo plant in Illinois with a contract to build 130 rail cars that will run on the state’s existing corridors.
Amtrak and California High Speed Rail Authority have answered our call to work together to explore a bundled procurement for the next generation of high-speed rail equipment – equipment designed to reach up to 220 mph. Combining orders will provide incentives to high-speed rail manufacturers to build factories domestically, creating new high-quality jobs and tremendous opportunities for suppliers.
Investments in freight rail will also mean new jobs at suppliers. Last week, the Association of American Railroads announced the industry would invest more than $24 billion this year in its network.
President Obama also recently signed into law the Shortline and Regional Railroad 45G Tax Credit. The Railway Tie Association estimates that when the 45G credit is in effect, between 500,000 and 1,500,000 additional railroad ties will be installed each year.
For the first time in more than a decade, America is adding new manufacturing jobs. Continued investment in our rail network will put Americans to work in factories today, and lead to economic expansion over the next generation.
WASHINGTON — Democrat Harry Hoglander has been nominated by President Obama for a fourth three-year term — this one to expire in June 2014 — on the three-member National Mediation Board, which administers the Railway Labor Act.
Earlier this year, Obama nominated Republican Thomas M. Beck to succeeded Republican Elizabeth Dougherty for a term expiring in June 2013.
It is expected the two nominations will move forward in tandem for Senate confirmation.
Democrat Linda Puchela is the third member of the NMB, serving a term that expires in June 2012.
Prior to Senate confirmation to his first term in 2002, Hoglander was a legislative aide to Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), where he focused on aviation and rail issues. Previously, Hoglander was a Trans World Airlines pilot and executive vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association. Educated as an attorney, Hoglander was a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Beck, an attorney, has been serving as a Senate-confirmed member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which administers labor-management relations for non-Postal Service federal employees. Previously, Beck practiced labor law in the private sector and was a part-time professor of public policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
WASHINGTON — Mexican buses and trucks operated by Mexican drivers would be permitted to cross into and travel through the United States under an agreement reached March 3 between President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Congress, however, must approve the agreement, with details to be worked out between Mexico and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should Congress approve the measure.
The Mexican vehicles would be required to meet U.S. safety and environmental regulations, and Mexican drivers would be required to demonstrate an ability to read English.
In exchange, President Calderon said Mexico would lift punitive tariffs against dozens of U.S. manufactured products, making it easier for U.S.-made goods to be sold in Mexico. Those tariffs are adding some $2 billion annually to the cost of U.S. goods imported into Mexico, according to U.S. officials.
WASHINGTON — President Obama Feb. 23 named BNSF CEO Matt Rose, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka and United Food and Commercial Workers’ Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Hansen to the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
The three join a long list of mostly business executives and bankers on the council.
Its task is to recommend ways to promote growth and bolster U.S. competitiveness in fulfilling Obama’s State of the Union pledge to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build” other nations.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is pushing for a six-year, $53 billion investment in high-speed, higher-speed and expanded passenger rail service, but a fight is brewing with congressional Republicans.
An initial $8 billion in funding for these rail projects is expected to be included in the president’s fiscal year 2012 budget request that will be transmitted to Congress next week.
Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood lifted the curtain on the proposal Feb. 8 at a Philadelphia press conference, announcing the Obama administration wants the $53 billion focused on three areas of development:
Core express that will develop electrified high-speed trains operating between 125 and 250 mph on dedicated track reserved for these trains.
Regional trains that will operate between 90 and 125 mph.
Emerging rail where trains will operate up to 90 mph — intended to expand rail service to regions of the nation not currently served.
No specifics were provided.
Said Biden: “As a longtime Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced.”
Republican leaders were quick to respond — and not positively. Congressional approval of the Obama administration rail plan must begin with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), and the chairman of the Rail Subcommittee, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), called the administration’s rail plan equivalent to “giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio.” Madoff is serving a 150-year jail term, having been convicted of what was called the largest investor fraud in U.S. history.
Mica and Shuster criticized the Obama administration’s rail policies, alleging “the Federal Railroad Administration is neither a capable grant agency, nor should it be involved in the selection of projects.”
They said that what the Obama administration so far has “touted as high-speed rail ended up as embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere.”
Mica said he would prefer federal money to be spent on the federally owned Northeast Corridor, operated by Amtrak, which he called “the most congested corridor in the nation.” The Northeast Corridor connects Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
Federal spending on passenger-rail projects, some of which will benefit freight railroads, is part of a broad jobs-creation initiative of the Obama administration. In his State of the Union message in January, Obama spoke of providing high-speed rail access to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years.
During 2010, the administration, through the Federal Railroad Administration, awarded $10.5 billion in federal grants to 15 state for rail projects. Two of the states — Ohio and Wisconsin, both with Republican governors — rejected the federal money, saying their states couldn’t afford to pay for the bulk of the projects’ costs and the expected future operating subsidies.
Included in the $10.5 billion grants in 2010 was $2.3 billion toward a $40 billion, 800-mile California high-speed rail project intended to link Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego; and $1.25 billion toward a $2.3 billion, 84-mile Florida high-speed rail project intended to link Tampa with Orlando (and, eventually, Miami). Mica, from Florida, has not opposed that Florida project outright, but said he wants to see the private sector commit at least $300 million to the project before it moves forward.
In his state-of-the-union speech Jan. 26, President Obama mentioned the word “railroad” eight times — the most mentions of “railroad” in more than 30 years of state-of-the-union messages delivered by five different presidents.
Yes, there are those who keep count.
In fact, the Washington, D.C., public policy advocacy firm of Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell used their research skills to trace back to the turn of the 20th century — more than 110 years ago — mention of the word “railroad” in state-of-the-union speeches.
As the table below indicates, railroads were a pretty common topic of statecraft prior to World War II, not the least of reasons being that they were the primary means of moving people and freight in America. That, of course, was before commercial air travel — especially jet aircraft — and Interstate highways. Indeed, Teddy Roosevelt said “railroad” a whopping 153 times in state-of-the-union speeches during his presidency (1901-1909).
The dearth of the word “railroad” in state-of-the-union speeches in the decades between Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) and Jerry Ford (1974-1977) ended with Jimmy Carter (1977-1981). Carter mentioned “railroad” 26 times in state-of-the-union speeches — and for good reason. During Carter’s presidency, railroad deregulation was among the top domestic priorities of his administration. It was Carter who signed into law the Staggers Rail Act, largely deregulating railroads, in 1980.
Comes now iron-horse champion Obama, who, in word and deed, is looking to resurrect rail passenger service — more precisely, world-class 21st century high-speed rail service — as a principal alternative to commercial airlines and automobiles.
Below is a table, courtesy of Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell, breaking down the mention of the word “railroad” in state-of-the-union speeches since 1901.
Total “Rail” Used
George W. Bush
George H.W. Bush
To read more about what President Obama said about railroads in his state-of-the-union speech, click on the following link:
In a state-of-the-union speech uncharacteristically short on laundry list projects and policies, President Obama Tuesday night conspicuously singled out high-speed rail as “the most reliable way to move people,” saying that “within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car.
“For some [high-speed rail] trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down,”said the president. “As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.”
The White House press office said the president will release more details on his desires for high-speed rail, transit and Amtrak improvements when he delivers his fiscal-year 2012 budget request to Congress in early February.
“Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do,” said the president in his state-of-the-union speech. “China is building faster trains … We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad.”
Many Republicans, however, have signaled they will oppose Obama’s high-speed rail spending proposals and also seek to reduce federal subsidies for Amtrak during congressional budget deliberations.
However, the chairman of the House Rail Subcommittee, Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), indicated he is not opposed to more spending on high-speed rail and Amtrak, but has reservations. Shuster said:
“The Obama administration’s high-speed rail grants, rather than focusing on a small number of projects with the most potential for success, have been spread among numerous projects. Most of these have been grants to Amtrak, and nearly all are slower-speed rail projects.
“In addition, the administration has virtually ignored the one region of the United States where high-speed rail makes the most sense and would have the most national benefit — the Northeast Corridor between Washington, New York and Boston. Amtrak’s Acela currently serves this route, but at an average speed of only 83 mph.”
And Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee’s parent, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, has voiced support for more high-speed rail funding in the Northeast Corridor and for a limited number of high-speed rail projects — but with a caveat: private sector investment in addition to federal funding.
WASHINGTON — President Obama has renominated two Republicans to key transportation posts after the Senate failed to take action on the nominations last year.
Nominated to the three-person National Mediation Board, for a term expiring July 1, 2013, is Republican Thomas M. Beck.
Nominated to the three-person Surface Transportation Board, for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2015, is Republican Ann D. Begeman.
Both must be confirmed by the Senate before taking office.
Both agencies have Democratic majorities and will continue under Democratic control so long as a Democrat is in the White House.
Beck was nominated to succeed Republican Elizabeth Dougherty on the NMB. Dougherty’s term expired July 1, but under NMB rules she may continue serving indefinitely until a successor is confirmed.
Since Oct. 2, Beck has been serving as a Senate-confirmed member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The FLRA administers labor-management relations for non-Postal Service federal employees.
Previously, Beck was a partner in the law firm of Jones Day, practicing labor and employment law. He is a 1992 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School. Beck also is a part-time professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he teaches courses on legislation and public policy.
The other two members of the NMB are Democrats — Chairman Harry Hoglander, who is serving his third term, and Linda Puchala, who was confirmed to her first term in May 2009.
Begeman was nominated to succeed Republican Chip Nottingham on the STB. Nottingham’s term expired Dec. 31, but under STB rules he may continue serving until a successor is confirmed, but no later than Dec. 31, 2011.
She currently is Republican staff director for the Senate Commerce Committee, but has been a long-time aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and served as a spokesperson for his unsuccessful run for president. Earlier, she was a legislative aide to Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.).
Begeman earned a degree in business from the University of South Dakota.
The other two members of the STB are Democrats — Chairman Dan Elliott, who is serving his first term; and Frank Mulvey, who is serving his second term.
The STB has regulatory authority over railroad mergers and labor protection for rail employees adversely affected by mergers, line sales and leases, and line abandonments. The agency also regulates railroad freight rates.