February 1, 2010
Check out the classifieds in this issue to find numerous job opportunities including a General Manager!
Obama’s State of the Union Speech: High-Speed Rail Creates Jobs
BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor
“We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete,” said President Barack Obama Jan. 27 during his first State of the Union Address.
With that introduction, the president announced that his focus for the year ahead would be job creation, and he then highlighted high-speed rail as one of two primary sources of jobs for Americans.
Through $8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, the president embarked on the largest investment in the nation’s infrastructure since President Dwight Eisenhower called for the creation of the national highway system over half a century ago. This funding, said the president, is just a “down payment” on a new nationwide high-speed rail system.
Obama also called for the Senate to pass a Jobs bill. The House passed its bill late last year, which contains measures supported by the administration to facilitate small business growth, green jobs, and infrastructure—including investment in public transit. The current Senate bill is under development, with no details released publicly. Some Democratic leaders, however, have indicated that transportation infrastructure funding—including transit—will likely be included.
The day after the speech, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Tampa, FL, where workers will soon begin work on a new high-speed railroad funded in part by ARRA. In a White House press release, Obama said that the $8 billion investment “is how we can break ground across the country, putting people to work building high-speed rail lines, because there’s no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we can build them right here in America.”
“By investing in high speed rail, we’re doing so many good things for our country at the same time,” said Biden. “We’re creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term; we’re spurring economic development in the future; we’re making our communities more livable—and we’re doing it all while decreasing America’s environmental impact and increasing America’s ability to compete in the world,” he said.”
“There are projects like [Tampa] all across this country,” Obama said in his speech, “that will create jobs and help move our nation’s goods, services, and information.” Several cabinet members and senior administration officials were slated to make similar announcements in other cities; APTA President William Millar participated in the Philadelphia event with Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.
“On behalf of the 1,500 member organizations of the American Public Transportation Association, I applaud President Obama for addressing the very important issue of creating American jobs in his State of the Union Address,” said APTA President William Millar. “I am especially pleased that President Obama recognizes that investment in transportation infrastructure is one of the key ways that Americans can get back to work … I also praise the president for taking the historic step of bringing the vision of high-speed passenger rail to fruition in the United States. Both public transit and high-speed rail will create hundreds of thousands of long-term, good, “green” American jobs,” he added.
“China’s not waiting to revamp its economy; Germany’s not waiting; India’s not waiting,” Obama noted in his address. “These nations, they’re not standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. …. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America,” he said.
Also in his speech, the president proposed a three-year, non-security discretionary spending freeze, and also called for a bipartisan Fiscal Commission to identify policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run. It is Congress that determines the budget; therefore it will be up to Congress to accept or reject the president’s proposal. This freeze could have an impact on public transportation short-term funding, but there are so many unknown variables—including the budget that will be submitted to Congress this week—that it is not possible at press time to state specifically how transit funding might be affected.
White House photo by Pete Souza