President Barack Obama says the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — from highways and bridges to airports and sea ports — is costly to U.S. business and threatens future economic growth.
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Speaking from the banks of an aging landmark bridge on the Potomac, Obama urged Congress to act on a provision of his jobs plan that would put $60 billion into infrastructure repairs. The president also announced plans to speed up the process of doling out grants and funding for surface transportation projects.
Deteriorating infrastructure costs U.S. businesses and families $130 billion a year, said Obama. “You’re paying already for these substandard bridges,” he said. Fixing them would “save money in the long run.” The administration argues that funding these repairs to the nation’s roads and bridges will also help ease the 9.1% unemployment rate.
“Of all the industries hammered by the economic downturn, construction has been hardest hit,” said Obama. “It makes absolutely no sense when there’s so much work to be done that they’re not doing the work.”
According to the policy group Transportation for America, about 70,000 bridges across the country are deficient and in need of repair. In 2006, the Federal Highway Administration said that repairing every deficient bridge in the U.S. would cost about $140 billion.
Lawmakers last month rejected Obama’s $447 billion jobs package, so now he is urging lawmakers to break it into smaller pieces, voting on it issue by issue in hopes that certain points will be able to gain bipartisan support.
Of the $60 billion the president is asking for with his infrastructure bill, $10 billion could go toward the creation of a national “infrastructure bank” to leverage private and public capital for various projects. The rest would directly fund projects around the country.
Democrats propose financing the program with a 0.7% surtax on individuals with incomes of $1 million or more, drawing Republican objections. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky predicts the legislation will fail, but said that Republicans are open to increased spending on roads and other infrastructure, saying the issue is “pretty important and pretty bipartisan.”