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Blog: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters


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Last month, I stood under a bridge in Minneapolis and made the case for the transportation provisions of the American Jobs Act that would create jobs and economic growth.

It was a powerful event. I stood with construction workers in hard hats right under the 10th Street Bridge, looked into the cameras and asked a simple question: Why are some members of Congress OK with the fact that 1 in every 12 bridges in the state is structurally deficient?

Why do they think we can't afford to employ thousands of construction workers to safeguard 80,000 Minnesotans who drive over that bridge every day?

That's a question that opponents of the President's jobs bill simply can't answer.

It has been nearly two months since President Obama first introduced the American Jobs Act. Today, he stood by the Key Bridge in Washington D.C. and repeated his call for Congress to invest in our nation's crumbling infrastructure.

The President wants to make an immediate investment of $50 billion to rebuild our nation's roads, rails and runways. And he wants to create a $10 billion bipartisan National Infrastructure Bank that would put hundreds of thousands of unemployed construction workers back on the job.

So far, the legislative branch has not acted on these proposals, so President Obama is taking executive actions to act where Congress won't. Today, he announced common-sense steps to speed up the process of reviewing and approving transportation projects. His administration will cut the red tape and leverage private sector funding to promote private sector growth and job creation.

The President has directed the Department of Transportation to award more than a half-billion dollars in competitive TIGER grants by the end of 2011-- months ahead of schedule. This program puts Americans back on the job by rebuilding our nation's roads and bridges, as well as innovative projects like streetcar and light rail systems.

The President has also directed Transportation officials to streamline the 2012 round of funding under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). This will put construction workers back to work more quickly. TIFIA provides up to one-third of the financing needed for bridge, tunnel, toll, transit, and other large-scale transportation projects.

There are countless projects in development right now that would do so much to further the well-being of the American public, if only Congress would commit to rebuilding our infrastructure.

This fall, I visited Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility in Milwaukee, a city that has built a reputation for national leadership in pioneering new ways to manage its wastewater treatment systems. They are implementing cutting-edge processes that generate energy from landfill gas that's created when garbage decomposes. In doing so, the reclamation facility uses just half the energy consumed by natural gas, reducing harmful fossil fuel emissions.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District will save tens of millions of dollars as a result of this new process. These savings will be passed on to the consumer through lower utility bills. A National Infrastructure Bank would provide critical support for projects like this one, creating more jobs for construction workers, engineers, architects, designers and project managers.

More construction jobs, lower utility bills and less pollution is what I call a win-win-win for Wisconsin families. The benefits of infrastructure investment couldn't be clearer. Brick by brick, bridge by bridge, it's time to get America working again.

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