Obama plans to head to New York State's Tappan Zee Bridge, site of one of the biggest engineering projects in the country, to announce his efforts to speed up infrastructure projects. A replacement to the nearly 60-year-old bridge is under construction, with a price tag of at least $3.9 billion.
In December, federal officials awarded the project a $1.6 billion low-interest loan, the largest given through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation program.
Obama will use the story of federal investment in job-creating construction work to call on Congress to pass a transportation bill and replenish the soon-to-be-tapped Highway Trust Fund. The federal fund for highway and transit projects will be insolvent by the fall if lawmakers don't agree on a new funding source. Obama's proposals have so far been dismissed by House Republicans. While a group of senators is working on a deal, the president is trying this week to apply some public pressure.
A White House official said the president will argue that 112,000 highway and 5,600 transit projects are at stake. Some 700,000 jobs could be lost if Congress doesn't act, the White House says.
Obama will try to show he's not waiting for Congress to move -- although his announcement Wednesday demonstrates how limited his options are. Obama will outline his administration's work to "modernize" federal permitting, the official said. As part if that plan, the president has ordered federal agencies to collaborate on the multiple environmental reviews that often slow the pace of construction. He's ordered the creation of an online permitting "dashboard" to improve interagency cooperation and transparency. And he's called on all agencies to better synchronize and expedite their work.