On Monday October 11, 2010, President Barack Obama, cabinet secretaries and a handful of the nation’s mayors and governors met at the White House to discuss the President’s Infrastructure Plan (Plan). Both Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter were present at the meeting, which came on the heels of a report issued by the Department of the Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisors that praises the Plan. According to the report, there are four reasons why now is the best time to invest in transportation infrastructure:
- Long term economic benefits of well designed infrastructure investments
- Disproportionate benefit to the middle class from this investment in infrastructure
- The current high level of underutilized resources that can be used to improve and expand our infrastructure
- Strong demand by the public and businesses for additional transportation infrastructure investments
According to the President, adopting the Plan would solve a lot of travel headaches: saving Americans time and making them more productive, while also cleaning up the environment.
What we need is a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century. . . A system that encourages sustainable communities with easier access to our jobs, to our schools, to our homes. A system that decreases travel time and increases mobility. A system that cuts congestion and ups productivity. A system that reduces harmful emissions over time and creates jobs right now.
The President and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood indicated that they intend to work on the Plan with Congress when it returns after the upcoming elections. Both promised that the Plan would not add to the deficit. According to LaHood, the White House and Congress are working on options to pay for the Plan.
In our earlier blog post we discussed the political conflict surrounding the Plan. LaHood seemed optimistic that the Plan would ultimately garner bipartisan support: “There are no Democratic or Republican bridges or roads – there’s just not.”
According to Rendell, “[t]his is the single best job creation we can do for this country. It puts people back to work.”
On Philadelphia’s agenda are the reconstruction of I-95, an expansion of Philadelphia International Airport, and upgrading SEPTA to the “smart card” fare system. Nutter conveyed his desire to move forward with upgrades to Philadelphia’s transportation infrastructure now, rather than waiting for the situation to become dire:
We should begin investment in our infrastructure now, not wait for an emergency to force us to repair some of these assets . . . In 2008, I-95 was closed for three days while emergency repairs were made following the discovery of a six-foot crack, costing around $60 million in lost productivity and causing untold inconvenience. It is much more efficient and effective, not to mention safer, to invest now before some of these roads crumble and fall.
We will continue to monitor and report on any developments in the President’s Infrastructure Plan.