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."
American Road & Transportation Builders Association President and CEO Pete Ruane noted the President's call to invest in infrastructure. "President Obama deserves credit for remaining focused on the need to improve the nation’s ailing transportation network," Ruane said. "New infrastructure-related reauthorization investments have been inexplicably languishing on Capitol Hill. It’s been nearly 850 days since the last highway and transit law expired, and the aviation bill is more than four years past due. In recent days, House and Senate leaders from both parties have expressed their intention to move forward soon on their respective bills. Of course, many cynics and pundits have already said that there will be few legislative achievements in a presidential election year. This is an opportunity to prove them wrong. We strongly encourage Congress and the President to complete action quickly on properly-funded surface transportation bills to help provide a jolt to the economy and get America moving again.”
Association of Equipment Manufacturers President Dennis Slater also echoed the call for infrastructure investment on the heels of the President's address. "America's manufacturers are working hard every day to bring jobs back to this country by investing in our workers, our facilities and our operations to strengthen and revitalize our industries," he said. "What we need from Washington to help our efforts succeed is an infrastructure program that will help U.S. manufacturers complete globally. It is time for Congress and the Administration to pass a fully-funded highway bill and not more short-term stop gap measures.
"We continue to see bipartisan rhetoric from both the Administration and members of Congress supporting job creation through infrastructure investment, but still no action has been taken," he continued. "Last night President Obama insisted for the second year in a row that we need to 'do some nation-building right here at home.' America’s manufacturers are done with rhetoric, and ready for action. There is no one piece of legislation now before Congress that could do more to immediately create jobs and sharpen U.S. competitiveness than the highway bill. Instead of long-term reauthorization of funds to pay for much needed investment in our crumbling roads and bridges, Congress has kicked the can down the road eight different times, passing yet another six-month extension. As our global competitors know, 21st century roads and bridges are not made six months at a time."