Just a few days before the Fourth of July President Obama stood in front of Washington’s Francis Scott Key Bridge and called on Congress to demonstrate “economic patriotism” by reauthorizing the federal Highway Trust Fund that helps states build and repair the nation’s roads and bridges.
Without congressional action in the next several weeks the trust fund will become insolvent and the government will begin to slowly dole out the remaining funds in a process that won’t support major projects. The Obama administration said that will put 700000 jobs at risk across the country and affect 100000 active infrastructure projects.
In the National Capital Region that means up to $2 billion worth of transportation projects could be slowed down or deferred. That comes at a time when more than 1000000 vehicles cross the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers on the region’s bridges every day many of which are structurally deficient. On July 9 the Council of Governments’ (COG) Board of Directors is expected to approve a letter to congressional leaders urging them to reauthorize the trust fund. In May the region’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB) urged Congress to take quick action. Republicans and Democrats make up both the boards in a region that suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.
The Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations – which includes the TPB – has said Congress’ failure to fix the trust fund will mean no new funding commitments can be made in 2015 and will jeopardize economic planning across the country.
Patrick Wojahn TPB Chairman and a city councilman in College Park MD said the president “hit the nail of the head.”
“We need to put politics aside. Getting this done is critical for the sake of the recovery and our region.” Wojahn attended the President’s speech near the Key Bridge along with Stuart Freudberg COG’s Deputy Executive Director Robert Griffiths COG’s Acting Transportation Director and Kanti Srikanth Northern Virginia Transportation Planning Director for the Virginia Department of Transportation who will be COG’s new Director of Transportation Planning beginning in August.
COG TPB Officials at Obama Key Bridge Speech. Photo Credit: Jeanne Saddler
Not surprisingly President Obama framed the inaction as another example of Congress’s political gamesmanship and the lawmakers’ disregard for the needs of the middle class. Political games he said have real consequences for American families.
“I proposed re-authorizing the trust fund … it seemed like the sensible thing to do. It’s not socialism; it’s not the imperial presidency. It’s just building roads and bridges like we’ve done for more than a hundred years” Obama said.
featured image credit: Patrick Wojahn