After much debate, the remarkable $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed by President Obama, touting the largest infrastructure investment since President Eisenhower created the Interstate highway system. (Learn more about the economic stimulus bill.)
In response, the new U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood shared an aggressive plan of action that boasts a transportation infrastructure overhaul that will yield jobs, modernize our system, and be environmentally sensitive:
"We will use the transportation funding in the Act to deliver jobs and restore our nation’s economy. We will emphasize sustainable investment and focus our policies on the people, businesses, and communities who use the transportation systems. And, we will focus on the quality of our environment. We will build and restore our transportation foundations until the American dream is returned.
"We will invest in jobs to expand transit capacity and modernize transit systems. Transit is a centerpiece of my focus on livable communities and our Department will work closely with Vice President Biden’s ’Middle-class Taskforce’ on transit initiatives. We will invest in jobs to allow Amtrak to add and modernize cars and engines and upgrade its tracks. We will invest in jobs to expand airport capacity and make safety improvements. We will invest in jobs to build and rehabilitate and make safer roads, highways, bridges, and ports. And we will invest in jobs to launch high-speed rail in America. This will transform intercity transportation in America, reduce our carbon footprint, relieve congestion on the roads and in the skies, and take advantage of a mode of transportation that has already benefited Europe and Japan for many years.
"There are those who argue that we need to waive environmental regulations to put people to work more quickly, but that is simply not the case. We have a backlog of worthwhile transportation projects waiting for funding that have already met those standards. We are ready to build a new transportation infrastructure and we will work to keep it green.
"I have met with state officials and other transportation stakeholders, and we have discussed how the money can be spent quickly to create jobs on projects that make long-term sense for our transportation systems in communities across the nation. We also reviewed the need for transparency and full accountability on this spending. We will do things by the book. I look forward to hearing the sounds of shovels and hammers and bulldozers and, in some cases, of moving that first shovelful of dirt myself."
In a time with so much negativity about the economy, I found LaHood’s comments uplifting. I am hopeful that the DOT delivers on these promises. I look forward to a positive impact from the stimulus package on our nation’s infrastructure, the prosperity of our readers’ firms, and the development of your career.
With this spirit of optimism, I’m excited to share an important announcement. CE News’ publisher, Stagnito Media, will be launching a new multimedia product, Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure: Engineering for bridges and roads, this spring. With online daily news, a weekly e-newsletter, and a quarterly magazine, this resource will be a prime source of information for civil engineers engaged in the dynamic transportation market sector. You can learn more and sign up to receive the e-newsletter at www.rebuildingamericasinfrastructure.com.