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State Of The Union

Transportation Nation

Mica: "We'll Get to Finish Line on Transportation Bill"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I had a great night tonight  with Barbara Boxer, she’s going to chair the effort on the Senate side, and we have a whole host of ideas we’ve already agreed on. We can do it. We’re going to drag Obama kicking and screaming to the finish line."

Representative John Mica

TN correspondent Todd Zwillich caught up with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committtee Chair John Mica last night after the State of the Union address, and he and a few other reporters got his reaction to the president's speech and upcoming plans for a transportation reauthorization bill.  You can listen to the congressman here -- or read the transcript below.

Reporter: How do you balance this in your own party, with the needs you know are out there?

John Mica: Well, again, there are good investments and bad investments; they missed the mark last time with stimulus, they only put 7% of $787 billion. 30 days before the election only 39% was spent. So they lost the election by 1) derailing a six-year transportation bill and by 2) coming up with a plan that didn’t allow the money to even be spent to employ people, so now we have a chance to correct that, and we hope we don’t make the same mistake twice. But we’ll work with the president, some of his math as I said doesn’t work on high-speed rail–-we have a hearing at 10:00 in New York City, at Grand Central Station, to sort out some of the differences this week.

Reporter: how do you plan to pay for this transportation bill without the administration getting behind some innovative financing with more than just the word ‘innovative’? It seems like he fleshed out (crosstalk)

JM: Well, first of, I’m gonna take –

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It's A Free Blog

Obama's No Centrist

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WNYC

A balanced look at President Obama’s actions and expressions of personal belief, in aggregate, points to a mainstream liberal, not a centrist.

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It's A Free Country ®

IAFC All-Stars Break Down the 2011 State of the Union

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

He did a great job giving a mixed message to an audience of bipartisan seating. I'm really curious as Senators and Congress go back to their sides of the aisle whether he continues to drive down the middle, or whether there's one half he starts speaking to more.

Justin Krebs reacting to President Obama's State of the Union address on The Brian Lehrer Show

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It's A Free Country ®

Slideshow: What Does the State of the Union Mean to You?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WNYC

New Yorkers gathered at WNYC's Greene Space on Tuesday night to watch the President's State of the Union address. Every year we get this glimpse into the President's reflections on the previous year and his thoughts on the future. Some of you were excited about the speech, some were worried, some were just curious to hear what he had to say.

We wanted it to feel like you were really there so we captured it on camera with our own version of President Obama.

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It's A Free Blog

A Good Speech, But to the Wrong Audience

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Last night I watched with 100 of my fellow political junkies as President Obama gave his third State of the Union address. We tweeted along, in earnest, with mostly substantive commentary, though the tweets were laced with wry humor about John Boehner's emotional reaction to Obama's remark about his boyhood and whether Vice President Biden himself was tweeting.

I said on this page yesterday that, for Obama, this speech needed to be a big transformational moment, a speech that would evoke FDR and Kennedy, one that would remind us why we voted for him in the first place.

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It's A Free Blog

This Isn't Your Grandfather's Sputnik Moment

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The build-up to President Obama’s State of the Union Address had suggested he was going to boldly challenge Americans to rise to meet the “Sputnik moment” of our generation. It was a tantalizing claim. Liberals hoped this sense of purpose would justify new investment in jobs, infrastructure and education, despite the worries of deficit hawks. Conservatives looked forward to pro-business policies behind the themes of entrepreneurship and innovation and were intrigued by the tone of American exceptionalism hinted at in the speech’s promotion.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

SOTU Analysis

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's A Free Country bloggers Jami Floyd, Karol Markowicz, Justin Krebs, and Solomon Kleinsmith join our listeners in reacting to last night's State of the Union address.

→ Read More and Join the Conversation at It's A Free Country

Transportation Nation

Mica: Yeah. Maybe We Can

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Very mild rebuke from House T&I Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) to state of the union.

“After the Administration derailed a major six-year transportation bill in 2009, it is encouraging that they are now on board with getting infrastructure projects and jobs moving again. However, just another proposal to spend more of the taxpayers’ money, when we have billions of dollars sitting idle tied up in government red tape, will never get our economic car out of the ditch.

“We’ve got to do more with less to improve our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Compare this to Rep. Ryan's (below).

We'll be posting audio of Mica in a bit.

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It's A Free Blog

Much Ado about Nothing

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"They say, 'What's your show about?' I say, 'Nothing.'"- Jerry Seinfeld

I was reminded of the Seinfeldian idea, the show about nothing, as I listened to the State of the Union. Don't get me wrong, President Obama said a lot, and some of the things he said I enjoyed hearing, but ultimately it was a speech about nothing.

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Transportation Nation

GOP Response: It's Only So-Called "Investment"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisconsin) response to the State of the Union:

"Whether sold as "stimulus" or repackaged as "investment," their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.

"And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten — along with record deficits and debt — to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.

"We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end."

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It's A Free Country ®

State of the Union Silent on the States

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

President Obama did a low energy version of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" when he proclaimed the "worst of the recession is over."

While 44 of the nation's states are looking at a $125 billion dollar shortfall and hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded pension and health care liabilities, they did not make the president's State of the Union final cut.

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It's A Free Country ®

Brian Lehrer's State of the Union Highlight Reel

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The It's A Free Country nation responded in real time to President Obama's State of the Union address. Now, Brian Lehrer offers his picks for the passages that are worth a second look.

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Transportation Nation

Obama: 80 Percent of Americans Should Have Access to High Speed Rail By 2036

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama is calling for what aids are calling "an upfront investment" in 2011 so that by 2036, eighty percent of Americans have access to high speed rail. That would mean high speed rail lines connecting, more or less, Tampa to Orlando, San Francisco to Southern California, Boston to Washington,  Chicago to Milwaukee, St. Louis to Detroit, and Portland to Seattle, at a cost to exceed -- conservatively -- $100 billion.

Right now, no Americans have access to high speed rail.  The administration has invested $10 billion to date. China has spent at least half a trillion dollars.

"America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities and constructed the interstate highway system," according to prepared remarks distributed by the White House. "The jobs created by these projects didn't just come from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town's new train station or the new off-ramp.

"Within 25 years our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high speed rail which could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car," the President said. "For some trips it will be faster than flying -- without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway."

A year ago, the President also spoke of high speed rail in his State of the Union.  The next day, he flew to Tampa  to announce that city's high speed rail project would be one of main recipients of high speed rail grants. At the time, it seemed a deft move by the President -- he got to travel to a purple state and announce a big, future-looking infrastructure project. It seemed to be a win-win.

But in the past year, high speed rail has become a considerably murkier political issue. Scott Walker, running for Governor of Wisconsin, explicitly campaigned against high speed rail in a television commercial, and set up a website notrain.com. His explicit theme: "their" rail would drain money from "our" roads.  Walker won handily.  In Ohio, John Kasich promised in a debate that he'd send $400 million  for high speed rail back to Washington. He is now the governor of Ohio.   And in Florida, Governor Rick Scott, who just took over from Charlie Crist, has said he'd only support that state's high speed rail if Florida taxpayers don't have to pay.  That project is one of the farthest along in the country, and the Tampa-Orlando route is expected to be among the first that's up and running.

But Obama is pressing ahead, with advisors heavily hinting he'd be talking about infrastructure for several days as a way to invest in jobs and the future of the American economy.  Meanwhile, the administration was brushing off naysayers.  At a Washington, DC conference for transportation professionals, Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari said "he's optimistic" that Americans will embrace the idea of infrastructure investment if it's adequately explained.

And Joe Szabo, the Federal Rail Administrator, was even more animated when Transportation Nation asked him about the mixed political reception to high-speed rail in the last year. "It's about quality of life for Americans. There' s going to be 70 million more people in the United States in the next 25 years, the vast majority of those concentrated in the megaregions. To the critics I would ask 'what's your plan?  How do you plan to move 70 million more people. How do you plan to do it while reducing congestion, reducing fuel consumption, and improving air quality?'"

President Obama has been completely consistent on this issue -- supporting high speed rail spending in his campaign, supporting it in the stimulus bill, (in fact,Rahm Emmanuel, now running for Mayor of Chicago, pushed high speed rail spending from $1-2 billion to $8 billion in the wee hours of the morning before the bill was announced,) emphasizing it at the outset of the 2010 campaign season with a Labor Day plan to spend $50 billion on roads, rails, and airports, and then inviting guests to the White House on Columbus Day to emphasize the plan. Even as the public reacted with a shrug, the President kept touting the plan.

Supporters of high speed rail hailed the President's remark. US PIRG said it would "revolutionize" transportation the way the interstate highway system had.  But there was measured optimism. "We need to need to figure out a way to pay for it," said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Puentes said funding for the project may come from "untraditional" sources. "We have an 8 billion down payment plus 2 billion that came in the budget. That' s a fraction of what we'll need."

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Transportation Nation

President: We Have To Do Better on Infrastructure

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Excerpt from the President's State of the Union address: "The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information -- from high-speed rail to high-speed internet.

Our infrastructure used to be the best -- but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports.  Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, and constructed the interstate highway system. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.

Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.

We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.  It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.

All these investments – in innovation, education, and infrastructure – will make America a better place to do business and create jobs.  But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.

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Transportation Nation

Obama: One Million Electric Vehicles by 2015

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From the speech: "At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities.  With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

"We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s."

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It's A Free Country ®

Read President Obama's State of the Union Address

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.

That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

—  President Barack Obama, from a transcript of his third State of the Union address

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It's A Free Country ®

Excerpts from President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Released by the White House, As Prepared for Delivery

With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

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Transportation Nation

More hints on what the State of the Union will say about Transportation

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  What's in tonight's speech?  No one is saying for sure, but Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari just told an audience of transportation professionals in Washington:  "You can bet the President will talk about what we need to do to address our shared challenges…our economy can’t roll along on rusty rails or overburned roads or congested runways.  Transportation is  essential to our nation’s success, the President understands that.

"We may not be able to discuss exactly what we’ll be hearing tonight, but we do know this after years of stagnant budgets…this President clearly gets how important [transportation infrastructure] is.  In America we invest in the future not just in spite of the challenges but because of them...We’ve always found great opportunity in the shadow of great challenge"

"If we’re honest with our selves we look at transportation infrastructure and we know it was built by our parents, our grandparents, in some cases our great grandparents."

We'll have more soon.

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It's A Free Country ®

Sen. Udall Talks Bipartisanship

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

WNYC

I'm an old mountain guide and river runner and one of the key things when you want to build a team to climb a mountain or run a challenging river is to get people to know each other because you're literally going to have your lives in each others hands and we've got the country's future in our hands here.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), on The Brian Lehrer Show

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Madison To Get Bike Share Program, Distracted Walking Under Fire, and NYC To Renovate Dozens of Subway Stations

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Perfect transit moment in DC, not too far from the Transportation Research Bureau conference: Metro, bikes, buses, pedestrians, cars (Kate Hinds)

Lawmakers in New York and Arkansas are considering restrictions on using cell phones and music players such as iPods by people running and walking on the street or sidewalk. (AP via Syracuse.com)

Mazda gets in the electric vehicles game; the "Demio" to be produced in Japan next year. (Business Green)

The NYC MTA is renovating dozens of subway stations in the outer boroughs. (NY1)

Five leading Democrats in the Virginia state Senate have crossed party lines and agreed to co-sponsor a $3.3 billion transportation package advanced by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, significantly boosting the chances that one of the Republican governor's top legislative priorities for the year will pass the General Assembly. (Washington Post)

Madison's finance committee approved funding for a bike-share program that could begin in May. (Wisconsin State Journal)

The Transport Politic tries to explain the Republican party's reluctance to invest in transit infrastructure. In a nutshell: "The Democratic Party holds most of its power in the nation’s cities, whereas the GOP retains greater strength in the exurbs and rural areas."

Which means: the president will be taking some political risks when he makes a pitch for funding infrastructure in tonight's State of the Union speech. (New York Times)

Stories we're following:  Republican and Democratic officials spar on merits of infrastructure spending, can rail and roads stabilize Afganistan, and Ghanzhou's BRT, with 800,000 riders, wins sustainable transport award.

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