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FAST Act Missing from President Obama's Last State of the Union Address

President Obama's final State of the Union made no mention of the FAST Act—the first long term transportation reauthorization since SAFETEA-LU, which expired in 2009. It's omission baffled many high ranking leaders.
January 15, 2016, 8am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"GOP transportation leaders expressed puzzlement that Obama didn't take the opportunity to tout the bipartisan work that led to enactment of the transportation bill [FAST Act]," write Martine Powers and Jennifer Scholtes for POLITICAL Morning transportation (MT) on Wednesday, the day after President Obama's last state of the union [SOTU] address during his two terms.

"It was very successful and took bipartisan cooperation. And that's frankly something that the president and Democrats and Republicans in Congress worked together on," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told MT. "It was a clear accomplishment. And if I were him, I'd have wanted to reach out and highlight that. So I don't know why he didn't."

Rep. John Mica was similarly baffled: "He mentioned briefly infrastructure, but I probably would have liked some other things in it,” the Florida Republican said. “We did a transportation bill. He could have said something about that."

Considering the amount of patch bills necessary to keep roads and transit funded, the fact that there will not be any such bills needed in five years is indeed an enormous accomplishment, particularly considering how polarized this Congress has become.

According to a November post last year on one of a series of transportation funding patch bills, "The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015, Part IIauto-signed on November 20, is the 36th extension since a six-year transportation bill, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) expired on September 30, 2009."

On May 15, 2015, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote in his blog, Fast Lane, "Today the House of Representatives voted on its 33rd short-term funding measure for transportation in the past 6 years, and Americans will pay the price."

In fact, a search for "transportation" in SOTU resulted in only one hit which focused as much on climate as it did transportation: 

That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.

The Daily Signal, newspaper of the conservative Heritage Foundation, didn't take to kindly to that comparison, and used it as an opportunity to rail against "perennial overspending on transportation projects."

Defending the omission was Rep. Donna F. Edwards, Democrat from Maryland, "saying that “the point of the State of the Union is to talk about the health of the union, a vision for the future," write Powers and Scholtes. "And I think the details of implementing the transportation bill, as much as I'm wedded to that because there are important things in there for Maryland, is not the place for the State of the Union."

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 in Politico Morning Transportation
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