Obama’s Jobs Speech Gets the Transportation Wonk Seal of Approval

Trying to make sense of last night’s speech by President Obama? Not to worry!

President Obama earned high marks for his jobs speech, but can he muster enough support for passage? Photo: ##http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2011/09/08/2011-09-08_president_obamas_economic_speech_will_address_american_jobs_act_encourage_bipart.html## The New York Daily News##

The brain trust at the Streetsblog Network has whipped up a few servings of transportation policy analysis in an appealing bloggy format just for you. The good news is, they generally like the president’s proposal, the American Jobs Act. The bad news is, they worry it won’t will be passed.

Deron Lovaas at the Natural Resources Defense Council applauded the president’s plan to reserve $10 billion for a national Infrastructure Bank and retain investment for innovative projects through competitive grant programs like TIGER:

TIGER specifically has spurred cities and states to submit hundreds of proposals, and rewarded the most effective ones. Second, they can be merit-based. That means cost-effectiveness, and also allows for other criteria such as contributions to energy security (e.g., does the project save oil?). This ensures a good return-on-investment for taxpayers, which may not be the case if the funds are just doled out to state transportation agencies by dumb, simple formula.

Last but not least, in an era of huge fiscal constraints they leverage federal dollars. For every taxpayer dollar invested, they leverage many local, state and most importantly private dollars.

James Corless at Transportation for America echoed the sentiment that programs aimed at keeping transportation dollars competitive is the right prescription for our ailing economy and infrastructure:

From the perspective of infrastructure investments, the President’s proposal is both ambitious and pragmatic. He called for immediate investments in the kind of transportation projects that create near-term jobs while providing long-term benefits to Americans and the economy.

Matt Yglesias at Think Progress gave the president’s proposal a qualified thumbs up from an economic perspective:

Not every single one is my favorite stimulative idea (the employer-side payroll tax stuff, in particular, wouldn’t have been in my bill) and the President’s exposition of the concepts aren’t totally up to state of the art New Keynesian theories, but these ideas will help.

Meanwhile, Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic said that, while he’s skeptical the president will be able to garner the bipartisan support he needs for his plan, it is the only responsible way forward:

Alternatives to Mr. Obama’s plan that would continue to limit transportation funding from the federal government have little credibility — at least if we believe that keeping the nation’s mobility networks in a condition of acceptable repair is an important national goal.

States have limited ability to increase their indebtedness, and the cutbacks that have followed the recession have demonstrated that governors and state legislatures have been almost universally unwilling (or unable) to invest their own funds to shore up their roads and transit lines — in spite of a decline in support from D.C.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The League of American Bicyclists is putting out an action alert to all its supporters after a House committee yesterday stripped all bike and pedestrian funding out of its six-year transportation bill proposal. Transit Miami gets excited, understandably, at the sight of a green bike lane in the state of Florida. And Second Avenue Sagas looks at the potential for pedestrian space under elevated rail lines.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

White House Backs $50B For ‘Merit-Based Infrastructure Investment’

|
President Obama today threw his weight behind significant new transportation spending as part of a broad jobs bill taking shape in Congress, with $50 billion slated for transit, roads, bridges, and ports and the administration endorsing "merit-based infrastructure investment that leverages federal dollars." President Obama gave a high-profile jobs speech today. (Photo: NYT) During his […]

Obama Previews His New Budget’s Urban Policy Moves

|
When it comes to re-centering the Washington bureaucracy to better accommodate cities’ needs, the first year of the Obama administration has brought its share of progress (a three-agency partnership set to spend $150 million on sustainable development) and hiccups (a White House urban affairs office with lots of talk but little action). (Photo: whitehouse via […]

Good News and Bad News: Obama’s Plan Would Work, But GOP Won’t Pass It

|
This morning brought some useful indicators about the outlook for President Obama’s jobs bill. Good news first: Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, says President Obama’s job creation plan will likely add 1.9 million jobs, cut the unemployment rate by a percentage point, and grow the economy by 2 percent. The plan includes $50 billion for infrastructure, […]

Obama’s 2014 Transpo Budget Calls for Higher Spending, HSR

|
The Obama Administration has put forward an opening bid in what are sure to be contentious 2014 budget negotiations, issuing a solidly progressive transportation budget that calls for increased overall spending and continued investment in passenger rail. The $76 billion transportation budget would represent a 5.5 percent, or $4 billion, spending increase over 2012 levels. […]

LaHood Wants More TIGER Aid in the Congressional Jobs Bill

|
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a splash yesterday by announcing that the U.S. DOT would look at the environmental and community-building benefits of transit projects, not just their adherence to a government cost-effectiveness standard. Washington D.C.’s proposed K Street transitway, pictured above, is one of many projects vying for TIGER money. (Photo: The City Fix) […]