President Barack Obama has unveiled a $50 billion programme to rebuild America’s roads, railways and airport runway.
In a move that echoes Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” that helped the States recover from the Great Depression, Obama is pinning hopes on initiative kickstarting the spluttering U.S. economy in the run-up to the mid-term elections in November.
The goals of his infrastructure project include rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads and expanding capacity. It would also construct and maintain 4,000 miles of railways, both high-speed rail and commuter lines. The plan also would “invest in a long-overdue overhaul of the Amtrak passenger fleet.”
Some 150 miles of airport runways will also be rehabilitated and reconstructed and the NextGen air-traffic control system put in place. Among improvements would be use of a satellite-based surveillance system, which would be more accurate than ground-based radar.
“We’re going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads – enough to circle the world six times. We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways – enough to stretch coast to coast,” Obama said.
The $50 billion set aside for the investments is only the initial sum for the six-year plan which is likely to cost billions more.
Obama also honed in on the current unpopularity of oil companies such as BP in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by announcing that the transportation programme would be funded in part by closing off a number of special tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
He said he’d “keep fighting, every single day, every single hour, every single minute to turn this economy around”, despite what was billed as “recovery summer” by the White House failing to materialise.
“Now here’s the honest truth, the plain truth. There’s no silver bullet, there’s no quick fix to these problems,” he said, adding that it will take time to “reverse the damage of a decade worth of policies” that caused the recession.
Critics have blasted the idea as just a new drain on taxpayers’ money and said that Obama is spending his way out of an economic slump merely to head off what would otherwise be a landslide loss for his Democratic Party.
Economists are also sceptical over whether the strategy would have any immediate effect on the economy. They pointed out that infrastructure projects typically take years to have any significant impact.