Connecting the Dots: President Obama Begins Laying Out a Vision for Transportation

Last week was a remarkably revealing week regarding this new Administration's transportation policy. First, on February 10th at a Florida town hall meeting, President Obama declares that 

  • I think a lot more people are open now to thinking regionally in terms of how we plan our transportation infrastructure. The days where we’re just building sprawl forever? Those days are over. 

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Three days later infrastructurist reports on a rumor that -- in spite of what you may have heard after Senator Harry Reid of Nevada speculated that the money could go to build a rail link from L.A. to Las Vegas -- the White House was responsible for quadrupling the high-speed rail investment included in the proposed Senate recovery bill. And then on Tuesday Politico confirms the rumor, quoting Obama's right-hand man Rahm Emanuel admitting that he proposed a fivefold increase:

  • “I put it in there for the president,” Emanuel said in an interview. “The president wanted to have a signature issue in the bill, his commitment for the future.”

And then the Transportation for America campaign reports on some amazing quotes in a wide-ranging interview with five columnists aboard Air Force One last week, in which our President really shows a commitment to smarter, more energy-efficient regional transportation investments:

  • I would like to see some long-term reforms in how transportation dollars flow, and I’ll give you just a couple of examples. I think right now we don’t do a lot of effective planning at the regional level when it comes to transportation. That’s hugely inefficient. Not only does it probably consume more money in terms of getting projects done, but it also ends up creating traffic patterns, for example, that are really hugely wasteful when it comes to energy use.
  • If we can start building in more incentives for more effective planning at the local level, that’s not just good transportation policy, it’s good energy policy. So we’ll be working with transportation committees to see if we can move in that direction.

These words point in a new direction for transportation policy, one that bodes will for energy security and climatic stability. We stand ready to work with the President to flesh out the vision, and hope it will include bold proposals like the National Association of Railroad Passenger's map of new intercity rail lines, construction of which would double the nation's passenger rail capacity and put the mileage almost on par with our world-class 47,000-mile Interstate Highway System.

Thank you, President Obama.