Thank you for the introduction, welcome, and opportunity to join you. I see too many friends and colleagues to recognize individually. On behalf of President Obama, thank you all for your extraordinary leadership.
I’m delighted to be speaking on the border of two states that have worked so well together to make this afternoon’s exciting announcement possible. And I’m thrilled to officially share news that the Department of Transportation will provide two important grants to the region.
First, we’re committing $20 million to help replace the deteriorating Memorial Bridge – and help keep open a crucial river-crossing for cars, trucks, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Second, we’re committing $10.5 million to help preserve Aroostook County’s freight rail system – a central artery of Northern Maine’s economy.
From day one, President Obama and the U.S. DOT have focused on building bridges between Americans who need jobs and jobs that need doing. At a time when too many of our families, friends, and neighbors are out of work. At a time when too much of our infrastructure is overburdened and outdated. The president deployed an economic plan that takes on both these problems at once – a plan that invests in America’s infrastructure as the means of laying a new foundation for economic opportunity and prosperity.
The Recovery Act was step one. It’s financed almost 15,000 transportation projects spread across every state in the union. It’s improved 40,000 miles of roadways. It will help connect 80 percent of Americans with a high-speed rail network within the next quarter-century. And through the TIGER grant program – that’s Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery – the Recovery Act is also financing $1.5 billion of merit-based projects across the country.
Today, we’re taking another significant step for Maine, New Hampshire, and America. Building on our momentum, we’re announcing nearly $585 million in discretionary TIGER II grants, which support critical projects that deserve federal funding but otherwise wouldn’t receive it. The 75 winning projects, including the Memorial Bridge, are indispensable – which is why they were selected from more than 1,000 applications requesting $19 billion.
Some TIGER II grants will fund innovative projects like urban circulator buses, bicycle lanes, and multimodal transportation stations. Others will fund more traditional projects that don’t fit neatly into old formulas – for example bridge construction and freight movement. But each grant rewards true excellence, effective partnerships, and good stewardship of taxpayer dollars – as is certainly the case right here.
And these same commitments inform President Obama’s vision for the future of America’s infrastructure – starting with a $50 billion upfront investment – which we hope Congress will adopt when it gets back to business.
Ultimately, everything we do reflects a fundamental recognition: Americans can still build great things not just in spite of enormous economic challenges, but as the means of overcoming them. In America’s first century, we carved the Erie Canal and connected the coasts with the transcontinental railroad. In our second century, we built our interstate highways and the roads and bridges that are still lifelines of our economy. Each succeeding American generation has demonstrated the foresight and courage to invest in the most important infrastructure projects of their time – the projects that make America the greatest country in the world; the projects that make America possible.
We can do no less – whether it’s a bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery, a freight line in Northern Maine, or any of countless other projects that enable people to pursue their livelihoods. We can still dream big. We can still build big. We can once again make this nation’s infrastructure the envy of the world.
Thank you very much.