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International Union of Operating Engineers North Central States Conference

Secretary Ray LaHood

Remarks Prepared for Delivery

International Union of Operating Engineers North Central States Conference

Chicago, IL

Wednesday September 26, 2012

Good morning everyone! It’s great to be here with you.

First, I want to thank each of you for the hard work you do every day. Building the finest transportation system in the world does not happen without the support of hard-working Americans like all of you. 

You are getting the job done every day, and I can’t thank you enough.

We all know that investing in transportation is about more than the cement we pour or the dirt we move.  Transportation is how America connects to opportunity.

Transportation investments create jobs for hardworking Americans—90% of the construction, manufacturing and trade jobs created through transportation are middle class jobs.

Transportation investments build long-term growth—improvements to our infrastructure help us move goods and people quickly and efficiently. That is good for business and it helps us compete in a 21st century global economy.

And transportation investments give our families safe and reliable roads, bridges, airports, trains and transit systems—infrastructure that connects us to work, school and other vital services.

You know it. I know it. And President Obama knows it.

At the Department of Transportation, we have done everything we can to help our state and local partners get the support they need - putting workers back on the job and building a national transportation network that makes us proud.

Our projects range from paving airport runways, to purchasing new fuel-efficient buses for transit agencies, to modernizing passenger rail service.

And our $3.1 billion TIGER grant program is helping every region of the country to invest in good intermodal projects that create jobs, attract new development, and make our communities more livable.

Right here in Chicago, we provided a $100 million TIGER grant—one of the largest—to unclog a major freight rail bottleneck.

This project is good for freight—and that’s good for business.

The Federal Transit Administration signed more major capital grant agreements in 2011 than in any year in the agency’s history – putting tens of thousands of men and women to work from Houston to Minneapolis-St. Paul. 

And in the coming months, we will continue our commitment to transit—with new bus systems in cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan; Brooklyn, New York; and Jacksonville, Florida.

We’ve also made olds programs more efficient.

Thanks to the great leadership of our Federal Highways Administrator Victor Mendez, our Every Day Counts Initiative is working with states and local government to speed up project delivery, without compromising safety or the environment.

We’ve accomplished a lot in the three years since President Obama took the oath of office.

He took office in the midst the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 

The impact was felt around every kitchen and boardroom table; in every home and every business; in every neighborhood and community.

But we’ve made progress since then. Over the last 30 months, the economy has created on average 154,000 private sector jobs every month.

That’s 4.6 million private sector jobs created in 30 months.

But, we won’t let up until everyone who wants a job has a job. 

At a time when one in five construction workers is out of work, transportation investments are a priority that we can all support.

This summer, President Obama signed into law a new transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21.

This bill is creating good-paying jobs and puts Americans back to work repairing and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.

MAP-21 allocates $81 billion for highways and $21 billion for transit capital investment.

It provides states and communities two years of steady funding and the certainty they need to invest in critical road, bridge and transit projects.

And it will ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund for the next two years.

MAP-21 also includes $1.75 billion for the DOT’s infrastructure loan program, TIFIA. This could leverage at least $34 billion in private sector and other funding for transportation projects. And it builds on the President’s vision for a National Infrastructure Bank.

MAP-21 is a win for safety—providing $2.6 billion for federal safety efforts and giving DOT oversight over transit safety, a long overdue step that will ensure that our buses, subways, streetcars, and light rail systems are the safest in the world. 

Finally—MAP-21 reduces waste. It consolidates highway and transit programs, giving grantees more flexibility to spend funds on the projects that best meet their needs.

It eliminates duplicative and outdated programs. And it provides DOT and our state partners the flexibility to fund important and urgent projects without relying on Congressional earmarks.

We are working hard to put this bill into action. And we look forward to working with states and local communities—and folks like you—to put this bill to work quickly and effectively.

Across this country, there are workers ready to roll up their sleeves and get back on construction jobsites. 

Across this country and in every one of your states there is work to be done on important projects.

We have roads and bridges that need repairs; airports and ports that need to be modernized; and transit lines that need to be built.

We have arteries of commerce that are clogged with paralyzing congestion—which will only grow worse if we settle for the status quo.

Of course, people on the jobsite know better than anyone:

If we want America to prosper in the 21st century, our citizens and companies need the safest, fastest, most efficient ways to move people and products from one place to another. 

And we need you out there building them.

This is America.  We don’t do small things.  We do big things. 

We dream big.  And we build big. 

Together, let’s put people back to work making a transportation system that’s the envy of the world – and an America that’s built to last.

On behalf of President Obama, let me thank you again for all that you do to keep America’s transportation infrastructure going strong.

You can count on DOT as your partner– and I look forward to continuing to work closely in the future.

And with that, I would like to open it up for questions.

Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012