DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Celebrating transportation— with a good dose of politics thrown in— was on the agenda of the U.S Transportation Secretary Thursday.
Ray LaHood was is in North Texas for a number of events, beginning with construction work at Dallas Love Field. His message: jobs. Or at least the promise of them being available if congress funds certain transportation projects.
LaHood used Love Field and other locations to make his pitch. “Putting Americans back to work,” he said, “how do you do it? You take the Dallas method, you take the Love Field method.”
The Secretary used the terminal and concourse remodeling at Love Field as an example of how he says jobs should work; that government and business put aside private differences to get projects online and people employed. But he also lobbied for Congress to pass a series of major government-funded transportation bills. “A transportation bill equals jobs. It’s that simple, it’s not complicated.”
He later expanded the theme at a daylong jobs panel discussion at SMU. He said President Barack Obama would urge a new stimulus program for infrastructure improvements of all kinds across America. “Jobs is a priority of President Obama,” he intoned.
Another panelist, the national president of the AFL-CIO, warned America is behind in revitalizing infrastructure needs. “2.2 trillion with a ‘T,’” said Richard Trumka. “That’s the size of our infrastructure gap over the next five years.” Not everyone here accepted the message, though.
“I wish I could be more optimistic, but I’m not,” said Professor Mike Davis of the SMU Cox School of Business. “Today was really just a political message.” Davis believes it was really Obama reelection campaign fodder. “Infrastructure is going to be the magic word. ‘We need infrastructure, we need infrastructure,’ what the politicians really want is ‘spending, spending…’” said Davis.
LaHood continued his swing in the afternoon. He toured Tower 55 Multi-Modal Project in Fort Worth, which helps ease one of the busiest rail intersections in America. Ten freight and passenger rail routes converge here, and up to 100 trains pass through every day.
The project is expected to create some 900 construction jobs while decreasing train delays, meaning fewer blocked crossings for motorists.