Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
President Barack Obama's new $50 billion infrastructure plan -- a remarkably consistent number he's pushed several times before -- has a twist. This time, the President wants to prioritize fixing roads and bridges over building new ones, which has been the previous focus of most U.S. government transportation spending.
"The new plan focuses on 'fix-it-first,' according to a U.S. DOT spokesman, "prioritizing the most crucial repair projects that we can fix right away to keep our economy moving. "
In his state of the union speech, the President raised the specter of 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. That's not a new number--nor does it mean those bridges are in danger of imminent collapse--but it's an alarming one.
President Obama has long argued for infusions of infrastructure spending to jump-start the economy, and to, um, pave the way for a more economically secure future.
But Congress hasn't passed any of them, and now Washington is deeply mired in strategies to avoid the cuts brought on by the so-called "sequester," a provision of the 2011 debt deal.
"The more the President talks about 'fix-it-first,' the better," said Phinneas Baxandall of U.S. PIRG.
Fifty billion dollars, by the way, is just about the same amount Congress just approved to fix damage caused by storm Sandy.