President Obama drew a line against slashing transportation upgrade programs to cut the federal budget deficit, less than two weeks after he struck a deal with the Republican House speaker that left transport analysts wondering.
"I'll tell you what I'm not going to do," he said April 19 at the Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va. "We're not going to reduce the deficit by sacrificing investments in our infrastructure."
That April 8 agreement he struck on cuts, to lock in the remainder of the 2011 budget, also wiped out his signature High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail grants program for this year and even cut some from last year's grant pool. Some industry observers took that as a desperate move that showed the president unwilling to fight for his big transport vision, just as congressional committees are preparing to write a new six-year surface transportation bill.
But Obama told the college audience, "We're not going to allow our roads and our bridges to grow more and more congested, while places like China are building new roads and new airports and thousands of miles of high-speed rail."
He linked the transportation spending to keeping businesses in the U.S. and generating jobs. To do that, Obama said, "We've got to make sure that America is built to compete. We've got to have the best roads. We've got to have the quickest trains. We have to have the fastest broadband networks. That's who we are."