Biden Highlights Infrastructure, Supply Chain at State of the Union
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President Joe Biden touted infrastructure projects underway that will rebuild roads and bridges vital to the country’s supply chain during his State of the Union address Feb. 7, with efforts to improve connectivity along freight and passenger corridors a key theme.
“Already we’ve funded over 20,000 projects, including major airports from Boston to Atlanta to Portland — projects that are going to put thousands of people to work rebuilding our highways, our bridges, our railroads, our tunnels, ports, airports, clean water, high-speed internet all across America,” Biden told Congress as he pointed to 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, enacted with bipartisan support.
“This law will further unite all of America,” the president continued, pointing to so-called megainfrastructure projects, such as rebuilding the Brent Spence Bridge in Kentucky. Of this span, he said, “Built 60 years ago. Badly in need of repairs. One of the nation’s most congested freight routes, carrying $2 billion worth of freight every single day across the Ohio River.”
Speaking more broadly on supply chain connectivity, Biden proposed ensuring products and goods originate domestically. “I know I’ve been criticized for saying this, but I’m not changing my view,” he said. “We’re going to make sure the supply chain for America begins in America.”
President Biden announced funding for nine major infrastructure projects across the country. These investments will create good-paying jobs, grow the economy, strengthen supply chains, improve mobility for residents, and make our transportation systems safer. pic.twitter.com/cqR4Br0rTY — The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 1, 2023
Last month, the administration announced $1.2 billion in grants for massive infrastructure construction projects important to the supply chain, including the Brent Spence Bridge. Also included in the administration’s National Infrastructure Project Assistance program were a freight corridor along Interstate 10 in Mississippi, a bridge replacement project along I-10 in Louisiana, and passenger rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey.
The focus on infrastructure was welcomed by American Trucking Associations Chairman Dan Van Alstine, who told Transport Topics the president’s remarks about rebuilding roads and bridges resonated with the industry he represents.
ATA Chairman Dan Van Alstine, president and chief operating officer of Ruan Transportation Management Systems, at the U.S. Capitol for the State of the Union. (TT file photo)
“It’s a priority that we celebrate,” Van Alstine said Feb. 8. The president and chief operating officer of Ruan Transportation Management Systems, Van Alstine attended the address with members of Iowa’s congressional delegation. “Clearly our roads and bridges and our highways have been neglected for decades, and certainly we applaud the idea of reinvesting in critical infrastructure,” he said.
Van Alstine also praised, “the focus on roads and bridges and critical infrastructure necessary for our industry to move our economy.”
The infrastructure bill also included a program to train younger drivers for careers in trucking. Van Alstine noted the industry offers myriad opportunities for entrants to establish careers in freight operations, including drivers. ATA recently determined the industry’s workforce is short about 78,000 drivers.
Other industry stakeholders highlighted Biden’s focus on policy and regulatory concerns.
“President Biden stressed the need for Congress to reach across the aisle to help hardworking Americans,” said Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Our 150,000 members across America are ready and willing to continue working with the administration and Congress on bipartisan solutions that we have long championed, such as legislation to expand the truck parking supply, to ensure truckers have basic restroom access, and to create a fairer driver compensation model.”
Said Maria Lehman, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers: “We cannot support a healthy economy on deteriorating infrastructure, and these investments will underpin long-term prosperity for Americans.”
Congressional transportation leaders reacted to the president’s address largely along party lines. “Thanks to our historic investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act, we added 800,000 manufacturing jobs across our country. And the number of clean energy jobs will continue to rise as the Biden administration continues to implement these laws,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) observed. He chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee on highways.
“As most Americans know just by looking at their last grocery bill or heating bill, the inflation, supply chain and energy crises in this country are still very real and continue to drive up the costs of just about everything,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “All of these crises have been made worse by the administration’s spending and policies, but instead of focusing on the critical infrastructure that can improve the supply chain and help lower the costs of goods and energy, the president is focusing more on his administration’s green, woke priorities.
“As we move ahead this Congress, I look forward to moving legislation through the House that focuses on addressing the nation’s most critical infrastructure needs and tackling supply chain challenges.”
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