Obama talks transportation funding, Jobs Act at Hilltop Concrete

Sources: White House press staff; National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Silver Spring, Md.; Hilltop Basic Resources, Cincinnati; CP staff

With a rickety, steel trestle bridge as a backdrop, President Obama told a September 22 gathering at Hilltop Concrete’s downtown Cincinnati plant, “We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad, Interstate Highway System, Hoover Dam [and] Grand Central Station.” With millions of unemployed construction workers ready to do the work for rebuilding America, he added, how can the can country now sit back and let China build the best railroad, Europe the best highway and Singapore a nicer airport?

Joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), President Obama visited the workhorse plant of the key Ohio ready mixed producer as part of a tour promoting the American Jobs Act he sent to Congress in mid-September.  “The bill …would put people back to work—repairing our roads, bridges, [and] schools,” he told the construction-wise crowd. “It would lead to jobs for concrete workers like the ones here at Hilltop; jobs for masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, architects, engineers, [and] ironworkers.”

The American Jobs Act contains three key infrastructure components, the White House reports: a $50 billion immediate investment in rebuilding roadways, railways, transit systems and airports; National Infrastructure Bank, with $10 billion in upfront funding, based on a model Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) have championed with bi-partisan support in the Senate; and, following President Obama’s directive to federal departments and agencies, provisions to help identify high-impact, job-creating infrastructure projects that can be fast-tracked through the review and permitting processes.

“Everything in this bill has been supported in the past by Republicans and Democrats,” said the president. “The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by the AFL-CIO [and] the Chamber of Commerce. Those two don’t get along on much, but they agree we should rebuild America.

“Thanks to the reforms that we’ve put into place,” he affirmed, “when we start rebuilding America, we’re going to change how business is done. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere. We’re going to cut the red tape that prevents some of these construction projects from getting started as quickly as possible. And we’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly is a construction project needed, and how much good will it do for the community.”

The Hilltop Concrete site was chosen for its proximity to a vintage bridge, the Brent Spence Bridge.  Linking Ohio and Kentucky—home to what the president noted are the two most powerful Republicans in Washington, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch O’Connell—the structure is among thousands the Federal Highway Administration has designated functionally obsolete based on design capacity versus actual traffic load. “We are honored President Obama chose Hilltop to address the importance of federal investment in rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” said Hilltop Vice President and General Manager Brad Slabaugh. “Dollar-for-dollar and job-for-job, investing in infrastructure is the fastest way to recovery.”