(Adds comment from Senate Republican leader)
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON May 14 U.S. President Barack Obama
will take aim at the cumbersome approval process for large
infrastructure projects on Wednesday, showing how streamlining
reviews slashed the time taken to green-light New York's massive
Tappan Zee bridge project, the White House said.
Obama is slated to speak at the bridge, about 20 miles north
of New York City, at 3:25 p.m. ET (1925 GMT), and will pledge to
apply the lessons learned from the permit process for the bridge
to a long list of infrastructure projects across the country.
Obama will also urge Congress to pass a transport bill to
fund an estimated 112,000 highway projects and 5,600 transit
projects. Without passage, work could grind to a halt, putting
at risk almost 700,000 jobs in the peak summer construction
"While a bipartisan group of members in the Senate are
working toward a compromise, there has been no progress by House
Republicans to date on the issue," a White House official said
in a statement previewing Obama's speech.
Obama has offered a four-year, $302-billion transport
spending plan, paid for by ending some business tax breaks. But
the White House has said he is open to alternative proposals to
avert the looming funding crisis.
He has long pledged to snip red tape on infrastructure
projects, which can often face a long series of environmental
and other types of reviews from government bodies.
Since 2011, the administration worked on ways to expedite
approval for 50 major projects, such as the $3.9-billion
replacement for the aging 60-year-old Tappan Zee bridge, crowded
with almost 138,000 vehicles per day.
By holding simultaneous reviews for several agencies for the
new bridge, the government approved it in 1.5 years instead of
the three to five years it would have typically taken, the White
Obama will announce that his government is expanding a
"dashboard" used to track schedules for permits and coordinate
reviews for departments of projects ranging from windfarms to
ports and pipelines, the White House said.
The highest-profile pipeline project, the politically
contentious Keystone XL crude oil pipeline from Canada, is not
included in the dashboard.
Supporters of Keystone XL complain that it has been under
review for more than five years. Environmental groups want Obama
to stop the proposed pipeline.
"It's a real challenge to listen to the president talk about
reforming the permitting system when he's been sitting on the
permit for the country's largest shovel-ready infrastructure
program," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
and David Gregorio)