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State of the Union

President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, and among the proposals mentioned was the importance of reinvesting in America's infrastructure, which he linked to the nation's energy needs.

“Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America's infrastructure,” Obama said. “So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We've got crumbling roads and bridges, a power grid that wastes too much energy, an incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small-business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world. During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our states with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.”

Obama also spoke about his previously announced initiative to reduce the delays that often bog down construction spending. “In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects,” he said. “But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home. There's never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the housing bubble burst.”

Industry leaders were quick to jump on the President’s message, and get it moving through media sound chambers. Momentum is everything at moments when critical mass is reached on topics of major importance, such as infrastructure funding.

The day before the State of the Union address, word came that a compromise was reached by congressional leaders on a final FAA reauthorization bill, and the House was poised to move forward on multiyear highway legislation. Multiple industry sources have confirmed the bill is likely to be five years in duration and provide $52 billion annually. The proposal will be financed in part by expanded offshore drilling royalties.

Maybe the announcement of the breakthough in infrastructure funding was meant to preempt Obama’s call in the State of the Union address. I don’t care how it gets done or who gets the credit. Let’s just get the bill done, and get it done right.

Mark S. Kuhar, editor
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Member: Construction Writers Association