Riley meets with President Obama on infrastructure needs 

Mayor talks Crosstown, rail, and bike trails

President Barack Obama called Charleston Mayor Joe Riley to the White House on Monday for a conversation about federal funding for infrastructure.

Obama recently unveiled an ambitious $50 billion proposal to mend existing highways and develop passenger rail throughout the country. The bipartisan meeting on Monday included Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, as well as mayors from Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Columbus, Ohio.

Riley has spent the last two years looking under every rock in Washington for the more than $140 million needed to fix flooding on and around U.S. 17 on the Charleston peninsula. Earlier this year the city received $10 million in federal stimulus money to begin work, with expectations that the federal government will continue to support the project.

"It's a substantial acknowledgment of the federal role and responsibility in addressing the drainage problem of the Crosstown," Riley said when announcing the grant in February. "What we got is a very significant down payment."

The mayor said Monday that he spoke to the president and the group at the meeting about the local flooding issue.

"That's an example of an aging infrastructure need," he said.

Last month, the mayor was in Washington to lobby the Department of Transportation for federal money to study a high-speed rail line from Savannah to the Myrtle Beach area, with a key Charleston stop.

"Eventually, our country will have a high-speed network. If we're not on the network, it'll pass us by," he told the City Paper last month.

Riley said he mentioned the high-speed rail aspirations in his comments to the president, as well as a note on the growing bike and pedestrian culture in Charleston, telling the president that "new legislation should more vigorously fund these enhancements."

The mayor is hopeful that there will be more traction on Obama's infrastructure plan after the midterm elections.


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