Why Obama’s “Fix It First” Approach to Infrastructure Matters

Everyone watching the President’s State of the Union address last night was looking for hints about what’s to come during his second term. And the good news is that what he had to say left advocates for safe, sustainable transportation feeling hopeful.

David Goldberg at Transportation for America said the President used some important phrases, and chief among them was “Fix it First.”

Obama was using the right words in his State of the Union speech last night. Image: Whitehouse.gov

It did our hearts good to hear the President talk about creating a Fix-it-First program (where have we heard that before?) that will focus on the health of our infrastructure, such as the 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. As we’ve noted, there are more such bridges scattered around the country than there are McDonald’s, nearly one in ten bridges.

Transit systems, too, are suffering from decay after a long recession that saw budgets cut to the bone and beyond. Our ports and freight networks need help, too. So, again, we were very pleased to hear the announcement of a focus on the upkeep of our key transportation networks – helping to ensure repair of existing infrastructure remains a priority.

The President’s pledge to put people to working to “fix it first” was a great applause line and brought members of both parties to their feet. We look forward to learning more about the President’s proposal, and hope the applause can be translated into votes.

Given the success that the road lobby still enjoys in states that continue to expand highways while neglecting maintenance, it would be interesting to see how Obama’s speech can turn into meaningful action.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure says Stamford, Connecticut, is throwing away a prime transit-oriented development opportunity. Human Transit weighs in on the recent press attention to NYC subway deaths. And Rights of Way reports that Portland, Maine, is the newest city to consider bike-sharing.