UPDATED: Obama Announces Plan to Expedite Funds for Infrastructure
President lobbies for $447 billion American Jobs Act in front of Key Bridge in Georgetown.
Speaking next to a giant American flag with the Key Bridge in the background Wednesday, President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass his $447 billion American Jobs Act swiftly. The speech comes just under two months after he initially proposed the act before both houses of Congress in September.
"We've got to do something, because our businesses and our economy are already paying for it," Obama said to a crowd of 150 people, mostly construction workers and union members.
Construction vehicles lined the Whitehurst Freeway near the Georgetown waterfront where the president spoke.
The act includes $50 billion in spending on transportation infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. The president announced Wednesday that loans and grants to infrastructure projects would be expedited.
"If there's money already in the pipeline, we want to get it out faster," Obama said. "See, construction workers, they want to do their jobs. We need Congress to do theirs."
Before the president's speech, Laphonsor "Big Al" Price, a 67-year-old member of Steamfitters Local 602 from Bowie, Md., said about the act, "It's gotta go through so people can go to work."
Price, who voted for Obama, said he'd never seen the president up close. "It's an honor. As old as I am, it's exciting," he said.
The Key Bridge, which served as the backdrop for the speech, would benefit from the proposed expedited funding.
"One of these potential projects is behind me," Obama said. "It's the Key Bridge, one of the five major bridges that connect the commonwealth of Virginia to D.C. Two of these five bridges are rated structurally deficient -- which is a fancy way of saying you can drive on them, but they need to be repaired."
According to the District Department of Transportation, the Key Bridge is not scheduled for rehabilitation until 2015, but the project could be moved up by two years with earlier federal funding.
Approximately 62,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day.
"We're not sure what it's going to take, but we've seen what happened in Minneapolis," said Kendall Martin, the business manager for Iron Workers Local 5, which works in Maryland, West Virginia and the district.
"I'm hoping we don't have to wait until an event like that happens again before we take this issue up."
Though Obama criticized Congresss for making infrastructure a partisan issue, he used the speech as an opportunity to work in a campaign narative. Obama separated himself from Congress, saying he was doing what he could, but needed them to act as well.
Hayden Duncan, 51, of Landover, Md., a member of Iron Workers Local 5, also attended the speech Wednesday. Duncan, who voted Obama in 2008, said he expects to see the president really make progress should he get another four-year term.
"I figure he's just fixing everything from before he was in office," he said.