(Todd Zwillich, Washington, D.C.) President Obama renewed his pitch for a transportation infrastructure overhaul on Monday, touting new spending as a way to create jobs.
Obama framed crumbling infrastructure as an election year issue, contrasting traditionally bipartisan support for transportation projects against the current polarized political climate.
"Our infrastructure is woefully inefficient and it is outdated," the president said in a statement in front of reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "This is a season for choices, and this is the choice." he said. (Video and transcript of his speech here.)
Obama reiterated his proposal to spend $50 billion to rebuild highways, railways, and airport infrastructure. The plan, originally unveiled on Labor Day, seeks to rebuild some 150,000 miles of highways and 4,000 miles of railroads. Airport runway expansions and updates to obsolete air traffic control systems are also included.
The spending would be in addition to the Recovery Act stimulus package, which, for lawmakers who voted for it, has become a political liability in the midterm elections. To counter those concerns the White House released a report along with the Treasury Department warning that the nation loses $80 billion annually in hampered productivity because of crumbling roads and bridges, traffic delays and closures.
"We're already paying for our failure to act," the president said.
In an effort to underscore the traditional bipartisan support for infrastructure projects, Obama appeared in the Rose Garden with former Secretaries of Transportation from both Democratic and Republican administrations. Ray LaHood, the current Transportation Secretary, said the administration plans to push Congress to act on the $50 billion proposal during the Lame Duck congressional session after the elections, then pursue a broader, 6-year highways bill in 2011.
That highway bill has been stalled as lawmakers hunt for a way to pay for new projects. The bill is currently at least $150 billion short in funding, and lawmakers are hesitant to tack the new spending onto the national debt, according to congressional aides. House members are waiting for the Senate to introduce a broader highway bill, though senators are having difficulty deciding on how to pay for the package.
One option is to increase the federal gas tax, which is traditionally used to fund highway projects. Most lawmakers have refused to consider a gas tax increase, both because of its political peril and also for fear of hampering businesses and households during bad economic times.
"I'm not going to stand here and list all the options. There are a lot of things being discussed," LaHood said when asked by reporters how the administration will want to pay for new highway projects. Asked by a reporter whether a gas tax increase is off the table, LaHood said, "I think you know the answer to that."
UPDATED here is additional audio from today's White House Infrastructure event:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls for action.
Former Secretary of Transportation for George W. Bush, Norman Minetta calls Obama "the Infrastructure President" and lays out his brief arguments for support.
Former Transportation Secretary and Chief of Staff for President George H. W. Bush, Sam Skinner on on overcoming partisanship to invest in infrastructure.
Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, makes the case for thinking long term. He says, “this country cannot stop investing.”
Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa says we need to do this because we’re not keeping up, we’re doing 1/3 of what Europe is doing and "we’re not even in the same league as China.”
And here is President Obama's speech text from Whitehouse.gov.
Remarks by the President on Rebuilding America's Infrastructure. Rose Garden. 11:08 a.m.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I just had a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and governors like Ed Rendell, mayors like Antonio Villaraigosa, and economists and engineers from across the country to discuss one of America’s greatest challenges: our crumbling infrastructure and the urgent need to put Americans back to work upgrading it for the 21st century.
President Barack Obama is convening cabinet members, governors, mayors and other leaders to drum up support infrastructure spending. He's expected to make the case that his $50 billion transportation bill will create jobs as well as roads, rails and airports. Our man in Washington, Todd Zwillich, will be watching this and checking back with any developments.
Affordable, commercial space travel passed another toll yesterday. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic completed a successful test flight Sunday. Branson called it the world's first manned commercial space flight, but were no passengers, just two pilots. There are already 370 customers on the waiting list paying a total of $50 million so far.
Two public transportation systems released figures that showed reductions or lack of growth in riders. San Fransisco's MTA estimates 10 million fewer riders than last year. In Dallas, DART held steady.
It won't help bring in riders in the short term, but London transit officials are initiating talks with counterparts in major cities around the world, including New York, to implement a single transit card that would work on all subway and bus systems. Great for travelers, and credit card companies, commuters won't get to weigh in until after 2012 at the earliest.
Fill more seats, fly fewer planes. That seems to be working as airlines are finding stability, and profits, without buying new planes. It is the first time since the 1970s that airlines have avoided buying new aircraft.
And finally, the Hoover Dam has a rival. The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, set to be dedicated next week, opened to cyclists over the weekend. It connects Arizona and Nevada with a 1,900 foot span across Black Canyon, 900 feet above the Colorado River just 1,500 feet downstream from its massive neighbor. Great views of the dam is the early word.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New diesel fuel economy standards are expected to be finalized within a week and some in the diesel industry are taking the occasion to remind us about the other way to reduce pollution, making engine technology cleaner with clean diesel. The new regulations are expected to require diesel engines to increase miles per gallon performance primarily for light trucks and heavy-duty vehicles, but regulating that category is no easy task.
In Europe, 50% of the cars on the road are diesel according to the Diesel Technology Forum. Here in the U.S though, diesel vehicles make up just 3% of of our vehicles, accounting for 10% of our nation's oil consumption, and 20% of the transit-related pollution. That's an environmental opportunity when you think of what a few extra miles-per-gallon would do with a bus or truck that travels over a million miles during its lifetime.
Its a complicated matter though to set fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles, a category that covers tractor trailers as well as construction vehicles like dump trucks. The fuel is consumed in many different ways, it could be used making cross country highway trips or in operating equipment on the truck while stationary like a cement mixer. Some vehicles go 100,000 miles a year, others may not travel more than a few hundred, like a fire truck. Some argue per-mile efficiency may not be the best metric for reducing diesel consumption and pollution across the board. The NYT has a nice explanation of this and other regulatory puzzles that explain some of the delay in targeting this class of transit polluter.
Mileage standards are certainly one way to reduce diesel pollution, but technology is another. In anticipation of the new regulations, clean diesel advocates at the Diesel Technology Forum pointed out a 52% rise in clean diesel vehicle sales over a year ago. No one expects clean diesel to rival hybrids for the mantle of greener cars, but it may well be a growth market and an eco-opportunity.
One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that we can cut fuel consumption in heavy-duty vehicles almost in half with the combination of new technologies and diesel fuel economy standards. That's likely the kind of hopeful case for change the Obama administration will make when they release the official standards.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The Federal Highway Administration is telling New York to replace a quarter of a million street signs to conform to national standards. It all comes down to readability. The FHA argues that the additional milliseconds it takes to discern what a sign says, keeping eyes off the road, amount to a safety risk.
The current signs are in all caps (above), the new ones will introduce lowercase (below). They will also be in a specially designed font called Clearview.
The ruling actually came down in 2003 with a fifteen year deadline to New York and other communities around the country. It came to light today when the New York Daily News reported that the cost of the street sign copy edit will be $27.5 million. New York replaces 8,000 signs each year anyway for general wear and tear, so the gradual phase in of the $110 signs won't cause any major hassle to the city's Department of Transportation.
That's probably why NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg castigated a Daily News reporter at a press conference for asking a question on the topic, calling it "the most ridiculous question that I've been presented with in nine years."
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Amtrak released a plan for high speed rail travel along the North East corridor Tuesday. It's an aspirational vision designed to show Congress (and travelers) what's possible.
The vision: by 2040, up to four trains an hour would zip off in both directions from downtown stations, reaching top speeds of 220 mph. You'd be able to travel from Boston to Washington DC in three hours, half the time it takes now.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says, if implemented, this would change the way we use rail. Right now, “the thought of being able to travel from lets say Philadelphia to New York and get there in the same lunch hour is something that doesn’t happen right now.” Shooting for speed is about more than a cheese steak power lunch though. The faster the trains travel, the more people the same rail corridor can carry.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Put a few hundred infrastructure contractors in a room with politicians, planners and transit junkies and you're going to hear tons about grand plans like mega rehab projects, high speed rail, and new tunnels. When you ask, "where's the money going to come from?" the room gets quiet, panelists hope someone else will answer. And then debate kicks in.
At the New York State Transportation Summit today, leaders from across New York's transportation industry tried to tackle tough questions, including how to find the billions of dollars of funding for projects around the Northeast and the nation. Stanley Gee, Acting Commissioner of New York State Department of Transportation, summed up the most popular solution, "to truly meet our infrastructure needs, stable, dedicated funding sources need to be provided" such as a multi-year dedicated source of income: higher tolls or a specific tax, not just one time grants from stimulus money.
Inter-city bus travel has had a bad name for decades, associated with small seats, seedy stations and slow service. Some new companies are stepping in to re-brand busses in an effort to take on air and train travel in certain regional corridors.
The younger discount lines like BoltBus, RedCoach and Vamoose, are offering upgraded amenities like WiFi and more legroom. Their ambitions go beyond stealing marketshare from Greyhound, in large part because Greyhound is part owner of the market leader, BoltBus. These companies are now saying they want to tap into the lucrative business travel along corridors like New York to Washington, D.C. and Miami to Orlando.
When you play Brazil, you are expected to lose. At least in soccer anyway.
Last night the U.S. Men's National Team took on the five-time world champions for the first showcase of international soccer on our soil since the World Cup. For the U.S. team it was something of a victory lap for their impressive finish in South Africa. Coach Bob Bradley filled his roster with familiar faces instead of testing out new talent. Brazil, on the other hand, used the occasion to debut an overhauled squad, keeping just four players from their last World Cup team. A new trio of youngsters, Neymar, Alexandre Peto and Ganso, passed their first test with ease.
Updated 5:39 p.m.
Arwa Gunja here on the evening shift.
A federal judge in San Francisco just ruled to overturn Proposition 8, allowing gay and lesbians to marry in California. The plaintiffs in the case argued their case based on the equal protection provisions of the 14th Amendment. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly up to the Supreme Court. Legal experts say the significance of the ruling could compare to other landmarks cases like Brown v. Board of Education which desegregated schools.
Tomorrow, we’re going to look at the impact of this ruling and speak with Constitutional Law Professor Kenji Yoshino about what happens next. Later in the program we’ll be joined by Harvard Law School Professor Randall Kennedy to help examine the origins of the 14th Amendment and the Framers’ intent in drafting the clause.
And if you’re in California, we want to hear from you. What does this decision mean for you and your community? Share your comments by calling us at 877-8-MYTAKE or leaving us a message here on our website.
President Obama has announced his commitment to draw down American forces in Iraq after seven years of combat. There will be 90,000 fewer troops in Iraq by the end of next year. But will the costs – financial, human, emotional – come down as the troops come home?
This month, the latest rules in the federal credit card overhaul come into effect. Credit card issuers, however, are already finding creative loopholes. Go check your mailbox: There's a good chance you have a letter from your credit card company or bank telling you about new rules and "improved" new features on your account. Some of those were actually mandated by Congress; others are workarounds to earn more money on new fees.
We want to help you find out what new fees and charges consumers have to watch out for now that the credit card overhaul is taking effect. Tell us what your card company is asking you to sign up for. Or how they are pitching their new features. Send us pictures of the letters even. Or, tell us any stories for paying too much or getting overcharged by a credit card company.
65 has been the standard age for retirement in this country since 1935. But that specific age has come into question as states hit economic hardships and more and more people live longer. Lawmakers in about a dozen states are looking to increase the retirement age or modify the way benefits are given out. These states might increase the qualifying retirement age for state employees, despite the fact that public-sector workers already retire, on average, earlier than workers in the private sector. Is this fair? We're looking into what the "right" retirement age is in this new age of longer life span and tighter budgets.
We want to know from you: Whether you've retired already or are just making plans, what is the retirement age for your household? And if you retired early during the boom years, how has it been going? What's a few extra years?
The oil unleashed into the Gulf of Mexico over the last months is a toxic danger to sea life and wetlands, but in a frustrating Catch-22, so is one of the key methods of fighting the oil. Chemical dispersants, though better (in most cases) for the environment than the oil itself, still pose different environmental hazards. BP says they have only used 1.8 million gallons of the dispersant "Corexit," but a Congressional inquiry may yet call those numbers into doubt. We look at the effects of the dispersant on the environment and talk to a shrimper about whether he's seen any toxicity in his catch as the season begins.
Arizona continues to attract the spotlight in the fiery immigration debate for taking a tough, conservative stance against undocumented immigrants. Their new law is the far end of the spectrum from more liberal reform proposals, like amnesty. It was, however, a conservative hero, President Ronald Reagan, who signed the last amnesty into law in 1986.
Three million illegal immigrants were permitted to set roots and build lives in America on the books after the Simpson-Mazzoli Act granted them a path to citizenship while making hiring an undocumented worker a crime. So what happened to those three million? How did their lives unfold after an act of congress and the stroke of a pen protected their presence on our soil?
Just months ago, Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) rode to office in a pickup truck powered by Tea Party support for his promise to be the 41st vote against health care reform. Now he's siding with Democrats on financial reform, the president's next big legislative priority. He has extracted concessions for his position, but that's not the reason he's crossing party lines. He's part of a rare breed these days: moderate Northeast Republicans. "41" is no longer the most important number for Scott Brown; it's "2012," when he faces re-election.
Last night, in a prime time spectacle, LeBron James announced which NBA team he's joining: the Miami Heat. He was only a free agent for a few days, but the machinations to woo the best player in basketball have been underway for years. In particular, The New York Knicks have suffered two terrible seasons as they cleared out players to make salary-cap room for big name free agents this signing season. Stocks even moved based on rumors he was coming to New York. Cleveland has calculated the impact of this one player on the downtown economy and regional business. It's in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Millions of migratory birds are getting ready to head south, right into or through the Gulf of Mexico and the biggest environmental disaster in decades. That is a toxic combination. So a little known federal agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is working fast to convert up to 150,000 acres of private land, mostly farm land, into alternative bird habitats. The idea is to lure the loons and mallards away from the tainted waters of the Gulf and threatened surrounding wetlands.
Noel King, here on the night shift.
Call it the “100 gene.” A new study from Boston University has unearthed clues to the genetic makeup of people who live unusually long lives. Scientists there studied the genes of more than 1,000 people who had lived longer than a century. And they say they can tell – with 77 percent accuracy – who will live to be more than 100. But would you want to know if you were going to live that long? We speak to the principal investigator of the study.
The Al Qaeda magazine that Alex referred to earlier has raised lots of questions, lots of eyebrows and even sparked a few uncomfortable jokes. But it’s made Wafa Kanan genuinely angry. She’s the publisher of Alo Magazine – a US based lifestyle magazine for folks of Middle Eastern descent. And Daniel Kimmage of the Homeland Security Policy Institute tells us what the magazine’s design indicates about its target audience.
And that training video for Arizona police officers who’ll be expected to enforce the state’s new immigration law? We’ve got Marshall Larry Talvy from the Tombstone Police Department coming on to share his thoughts and analysis on the video.
Plus, Oakland is on edge awaiting a verdict in the shooting of a black man by a white transit officer back in 2009.
And Pat Benetar weighs in on her picks for the songs of summer.
Alex Goldmark here getting things started for tomorrow's show.
As we head into the weekend its only natural we talk movies and entertainment. Tomorrow, though, we have a veritable bevy of media stories. Some days it just plays out that way. Al-Qaida has launched an English language magazine. They've had some problems distributing the PDF but you can see a few pages here. We're reaching out to magazine folks to get an industry take what appears to be a high quality publication. We want to see if we can find out who their target audience and target demo is. Plus, lets say the English language recruiting magazine works, what happens next? Personally, seems like subscribing to "Inspire" would be the fastest way to get on the no fly list.
This week Alcoholics Anonymous holds its annual meeting where they are celebrating their 75th anniversary. More than a million Americans attend one of the 55,000 meeting groups, and countless more have been through the program since Bill Wilson and and Ebby Thatcher began spreading the gospel of surrender in 1935. What still isn't clear though, is why it works, or more accurately, why it works for some and not for others.