“We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the next generation of cargo ships,” Obama said against a backdrop of cranes replacing the 58-year-old Tappan Zee. “We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare.”
Obama used the major Hudson River crossing point north of New York City and its $3.9 billion replacement project to illustrate a fast-track system he initiated, saying it cut the permitting time from five years to 1 1/2 years.
He blamed Republicans for not authorizing more money for construction and repairs and warned without congressional action, the Highway Trust Fund, used to pay for transportation projects, will run dry. He accused Republicans of voting against additional spending, even as they gladly show up at ribbon cutting ceremonies for projects they refused to finance.
“They are more interested in saying ‘no’ because they are worried that maybe they’d have to be at a bill signing with me,” Obama said.
Republicans contended Obama was hypocritical for claiming credit for the expedited process, while his administration has yet to decide the fate of a proposed Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline. The GOP is using the up-in-the-air project to bash Democrats ahead of the November elections.
“It’s a real challenge to listen to the president talk about reforming the permitting system when he’s been sitting on the permit for the country’s largest shovel-ready infrastructure program, the Keystone XL pipeline, for five years,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Obama noted over the last 50 years, the United States’ spending on transportation as a share of the economy has shrunk by 50 percent, while European countries are spending twice as much.