By Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood
I can't say it enough: If we want an economy that's built to last, it must run on the wheels of a transportation system that's built to last. We need to fix our roads and bridges; where it makes sense, we need to expand roads, rails, and runways; and where we can't expand existing systems, we need more effective ways to get people and products from place to place.
We have a lot of work to do, and--from engineers to heavy equipment operators to flagmen--we have Americans ready to do it. But, ultimately, short-term extensions of highway funding will not get it done.
America needs a long-term transportation bill that maps out a solid course for moving forward.
President Obama knows it; the professionals at DOT know it; and the members of the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) know it. This week, AASHTO members representing aviation, highways, public transit, rail, and waterways are in Washington, DC, to discuss with their Members of Congress the critical role that transportation plays in securing a good quality of life and sound economy for our nation. And they will impress upon their legislators the need to pass a long-term transportation bill.
AASHTO members work hard in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to keep America moving. They are on the front lines of transportation, and I can't thank them enough for coming to Washington to share with Congress our nation's urgent need for a long-term vision.
My message to them was simple: Think about the America that is within our reach if we keep working, if we keep pushing, if we keep fighting.
The budget President Obama proposed earlier this month will help us get to that America. It offers a detailed vision for a six-year transportation plan that will put our friends and neighbors to work right away building the integrated national transportation system this country needs.
Of the President's $476 billion proposal, $305 billion would fund road and bridge improvements--that's a 34 percent increase over the previous authorization.
The President proposed that we cut government red tape so we can start good projects faster by consolidating more than 55 highway programs into five and merging five transit programs into two.
The plan creates a Transportation Rapid Response Team with senior staff from more than 11 agencies to help fast-track projects through contracting and permitting so workers can get on the job sooner and people can benefit from projects more quickly.
And "Buy America" requirements will reward companies that do work and employ people here in the United States.
All across this country, there are workers ready to roll up their sleeves and get back on construction jobsites. All across this country, there is work to be done on important projects. Now is the time to connect the people who need work with the work we need to do.
This week, AASHTO representatives will carry a similar message to their Members of Congress. They know that whether you're a local transportation official, a transportation worker, or one of the millions of Americans who relies on our roads, bridges and runways every day, transportation gets all of us where we need to go, delivers food from farmers to all of our families, and connects us all with the products we need.
Transportation makes a tremendous difference in all of our lives, and together we can make it even better. Together, we can forge a transportation system built to last that supports an America built to last