Obama puts infrastructure at center stage

| 12/8/2008

The nation’s infrastructure is at the center of President-elect Barack Obama’s plans to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Obama has called for $500 billion to be invested into roads, bridges and other infrastructure as part of a plan to improve transportation and create 2.5 million jobs by 2011.

Highway users haven’t heard that kind of language since the Eisenhower era that spawned the interstates.

“We’re very positive about what we’ve heard from President-elect Obama so far,” said Mike Joyce, director of legislative affairs in the Washington, DC, office of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“I think it’s positive that, for once in a long time, the person who will be president of the United States is talking about highways and infrastructure and the way we move people and goods.”

Obama takes office Jan. 20, 2009, and many people believe an infrastructure stimulus package will not be far behind.

Obama continues to say that the government should create a national infrastructure bank to loan money for infrastructure projects of national significance. He also says he does not favor an increase in fuel taxes to fund infrastructure on a long-term basis.

Other topics frequently discussed by the president-elect include fuel-efficiency, increased use of alternative energy, and a possible carbon cap and trade tax.

Highway users are taking part in the discussions. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer recently met with Obama’s transition team to discuss trucking issues.

Joyce said other stakeholders and lawmakers are sure to try to make their mark on any large-scale transportation legislation that Congress brings to the table.

“You never know who’s going to get in there and cater the language to their needs,” Joyce said. “We’re conscious about what will be in the details.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, stated in a letter to Obama that an infrastructure spending package should include steps to fight global warming and to reduce dependence on oil.

– By David Tanner, staff writer