CLEVELAND - Calling the nation’s transportation infrastructure the backbone of the American economy Vice President Joe Biden took the administration’s push for the “Grow America Plan” to Cleveland on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Greater Cleveland RTA’s Central Rail Maintenance Facility, Biden warned where we once led the world we are now falling behind.
“We need $3.6 trillion in new investment in infrastructure in America by 2020 to meet the needs of a growing vibrant population,” Biden said. “We're losing ground to the rest of the world."
House Republicans have proposed a plan to replace the highway spending bill that expires September 30, that would cut $1.8 billion from current funding levels.
"They insist that we can't afford, hear the phrase, we can't afford to make these investments. How can we afford not to make these investments," Biden said.
The president recently sent to Congress his own proposal, the four year, $302 billion "Grow America Plan" that would send an extra $87 billion to help finance the replacement of the country’s structurally deficient bridges and other transportation needs.
A compromise plan under consideration in the U.S. Senate would continue funding at the current levels but gives states more control over how they use federal dollars.
Biden argued investing in infrastructure is good for the economy.
“We’re determined to create millions upon millions of good paying jobs and the most direct immediate way to do that is invest in rebuilding America, invest in our infrastructure trains, roads, bridges, canals, airports,” he said.
Biden then went to Little Italy to meet with local business leaders and to see the return on the federal investment in the new University Circle RTA Rapid station under construction at East 120th Street and Mayfield Road.
Nearly 80 percent of the $17.5 million project is being funded by the federal government. Most of that from $12.5 million grant awarded in 2011 as part of the TIGER III stimulus program for national infrastructure investments.
The vice president’s visit came on the same day President Obama traveled to New York state and site of the new Tappan Zee Bridge to do the same. The new bridge over the Hudson River is being funded by a $1.6 billion federal loan.
“Building a world-class transportation system is one of the reasons America became an economic superpower in the first place,” the president said. “But over the past 50 years, as a share of our economy, our investment in transportation has shrunk by 50 percent.”
“You know what other countries are doing? European countries now invest twice as much as we do,” he said.