From The Mayor's Desk ...
Recently, I joined California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to begin pushing Congress to take action on a critically important issue: infrastructure. Talking about infrastructure doesn't make for great headlines, but it is one of the most important issues facing our country - and, make no mistake about it: we are facing a national infrastructure crisis.
We all remember the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota last year and we'll never forget when the levees broke in New Orleans. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Across the country, we have rusting bridges, airports bursting at the seams, railroad tracks that can't carry high-speed trains, and power transmission lines that can't keep up with demand. Incredibly, the Federal government has no comprehensive plan for fixing this.
When the federal government does invest in infrastructure, it doesn't do so based on need or economics - just politics. That's why it funds bridges to nowhere and unwanted highways. We need to start investing money more wisely - on the projects America needs, not the projects politicians want. If we don't, we're going to suffer more human tragedy and more economic pain. And in the long-term, we're going to risk losing our place as the world's leading superpower. That's why mayors and governors are coming together to support our bi-partisan coalition, which we call "Building America's Future."
Just last week, Mayor Fenty of Washington, DC signed on. All of us see the infrastructure crisis every day in our cities and states - and we all understand that something needs to be done.
It's time for an independent approach to infrastructure - one that weighs projects based on merit, not politics. And it's time for our federal government to make the kind of commitment to public infrastructure that was made under Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower.
In New York City, we're not waiting for the federal government to act.
Last year, we unveiled PlaNYC , which includes major investment in the key areas of the city's infrastructure: water lines, power lines, roads and bridges, sewers, and especially mass transit. We're also investing in our ferry infrastructure. We've reconstructed the Staten Island Ferry's two terminals, purchased three new ferry boats, overhauled safety standards, and expanded the ferries' schedule and improved service. Now, 94% of all ferries arrived on time during peak hours in 2007. And we're even improving the experience of riding the ferry: Last week, I helped unveil two new giant fish tanks at the Saint George Terminal in Staten Island. You might say it was a "whale" of an event!
Under PlaNYC , we're also making our ferries greener. We are currently retrofitting ferryboats with the latest technology to reduce exhaust emissions and trap various pollutants that can cause respiratory diseases like asthma. And last week I signed a bill that will convert our entire ferry fleet to a much cleaner- burning, ultra-low sulfur bio-diesel blend - which we've been successfully testing on one of our ferries since the fall. These upgrades will significantly reduce emissions, making the Staten Island Ferry the cleanest-operating ferry fleet in the nation.
Building infrastructure - especially "green" mass transit infrastructure - is one of the smartest investments we can make in our future. We'll continue to do that here in New York, and we'll continue to press the federal government to join us.