‘Fix It First’ program takes aim at road repair

President Obama called in his State of the Union address for a "Fix it First" program to encourage public-private partnerships to fund transportation improvements in the country. 

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“Tonight, I propose a ‘Fix-It-First’ program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country,” Obama said in his address Tuesday night. 

“And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children,” he continued. “Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America.  And let’s start right away.” 

Obama challenged lawmakers to support his transportation proposals, which have faced stiff opposition from congressional Republicans in recent years. 

“I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts,” he said. “I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.”

Obama added that spending on road and transit projects had the support of the business community.

“Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids,” he said. “The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Obama touted the performance of the U.S. auto industry, saying, “[W]e buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20."

Transportation advocates praised Obama’s call for more robust spending on infrastructure. 

“President Obama’s support for transportation infrastructure in tonight’s State of the Union address is of critical importance to millions of American motorists that depend on safe roads and bridges to support their livelihoods and their families,” AAA Auto Club President Robert Darbelnet said in a statement.

“America’s Interstate Highway System became the envy of the world decades ago because our nation’s leaders worked together to implement far-reaching polices of historic importance,” Darbelnet continued. “The leaders of the time did not let the political risks detract them from developing a highway network that would stand as a monument to the engineering excellence of the United States.” 

Darblenet said that motorists and travelers did not care about ideological debates about transportation funding. 

Instead, he said, they just want to see their commutes improved. 

“It is no secret that a great political divide and considerable funding issues have created significant road blocks to sustaining a safe and an improved infrastructure,” Darbelnet said. “Every day millions of frustrated Americans lose valuable time and money waiting in traffic, and they are relying on their elected officials to provide relief.” 

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