Obama touts infrastructure investment during New Orleans visit

During his visit to the Port of New Orleans last week, President Obama called on Congress to invest more in U.S. infrastructure, particularly ports and waterways, according to a report from The Hill.

Obama noted that the U.S. is falling behind other countries with its infrastructure, adding that “we’re relying on old stuff.”

He also said that infrastructure investment would improve the nation’s economy.

“Rebuilding our transportation and communications networks is one of the fastest ways to create good jobs,” Obama said. “And consider that just a couple years from now, we’re going to have new supertankers that are gonna start coming through the Panama Canal. And these tankers can hold three times as much cargo as today’s. If a port can’t handle those supertankers, they’ll go load and unload cargo somewhere else.

“Right now, exports are one of the brightest spots in our economy thanks in part to new trade deals that we’ve signed with countries like Panama and Colombia and South Korea,” he continued. “We now export more goods and services than ever before, and that means jobs right here in the United States of America. Last year, every $1 billion in exports supports nearly 5,000 jobs, including jobs right here at this port.”

In addition to encouraging port growth, Obama also addressed other areas of transportation such as highways and airways.

“One in nine of our bridges is rated structurally deficient,” Obama said. “More than 40 percent of our major highways are congested.”

(Check out the 2013 Bridge Inventory for the latest figures regarding structurally deficient bridges in the U.S.)

“So’s our airspace,” he continued. “Everybody who’s sitting on a… tarmac wondering why it is that you’re not taking off and getting aggravated when you go fly someplace, part of the reason is we’ve got this antiquated air traffic control system. We need the next-generation air traffic control system.”

Obama was joined by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who has recently visited ports in Baltimore, Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston, South Carolina.

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Obama’s call for increased infrastructure spending comes nearly three weeks after the House passed its version of a federal waterways spending bill, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), and about six months after the Senate passed its version of the bill.

According to The Hill, Congress is expected to start negotiating an $8.2 billion bicameral bill, and the White House has said it supports the measure.