When the White House wants to deliver a political message, there is often a stop in Northeast Ohio.
CLEVELAND -- When the White House wants to deliver a political message, there is often a stop in Northeast Ohio.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are crisscrossing the country, proclaiming the country needs to invest billions of dollars in repaving old highways and fixing ramshackle bridges.
On Wednesday, Vice President Biden brought an expanded version of that message to an RTA rapid car repair shop.
He said the U.S. must invest in its declining infrastructure to remain an economic power.
But he spoke on behalf of doing more than upgrading roads and bridges.
He touted the benefits of a federal grant program that's funding RTA's new rapid station in Little Italy.
That program, Tiger Grants, could face stiff opposition from Republicans.
"Those in Congress who lack vision say we can't afford to make these investments. How can we not afford to make these investments? " he asked.
He said the U.S. ranks 28th in the world in the amount it spends on its infrastructure and 18th in the world for the condition of its roads and highway.
Republican National Chairman Michael Short said the Obama administration should stop impeding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline which "has bi-partisan support and would create good-paying Ohio jobs."
Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur acknowledged a new infrastructure package could include discussion of some kind of calibrated increase in the gasoline tax. It's one tax which has remained the same since the mid-1990's.
She spoke of Republican opponents to Tiger Grant projects as "living in the last century. We have a multi-modal society. We have to meet the rest of the world," she said.
Public transportation advocates argue too little is spent on mass transit.
Biden talked of the Rapid Station project as an economic boost,
"It matters in the neighborhood. It changes the way people think about where they live. It makes businesses want to stay...Nearly $4 of private money is being spent for every federal dollar put up. That's what's happening here," he said.
Some Ohio cities are hoping a transportation funding package includes money for pothole repairs.
In his State of the City remarks, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said they need to be a federal priority.
After Biden's event, Jackson said potholes are "indicators of what the VIce President is saying" about the need for infrastructure spending.
The Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in late August or September.
After the event, Biden went to Presti's Bakery in Little Italy, according to the White House press release. He greeted the afternoon crowd in the cafe, working his way past the counter around the room to a corner table to meet with business and community leaders.
"If you're not supposed to be here, you're in trouble now," he told Dan Brennan, President of Little Italy Redevelopment Corporation, as cameras clicked around them.
Biden ordered tiramisu, cannoli and coffee before getting down to business -- the impact on the neighborhood of infrastructure investment including two rapid transit stations undergoing extensive renovation. "Tell me about what's going," he asked the four people at his table. "Economic growth -- is this new rail station having an impact on it?"
"This is huge," said Steve Standley, Chief Administrative Officer of University Hospitals. He said investment in the Little Italy-University Circle neighborhood, spearheaded by UH, the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University, had led to new housing, retail and commercial development in the area.
In his visits to other parts of the country, he said, "They're talking about the Cleveland model now."