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‘Lead foot’ Obama hits the simulated road

  • McClatchy Washington Bureau
  • Published Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at 12:41 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, July 16, 2014, at 6:23 a.m.

President Obama used a trip to a federal research center to prod Republicans to back more spending on roads and bridges -- and to take a zip in a self-driving simulated automobile.

“Yeah, I’m a little tall, but that’s okay,” Obama said as he climbed into the vehicle at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center and buckled up. “Safety first.”

He declared the trip “exciting,” noting that he hadn’t been “on the road in a long time.” He later told an audience at the center it had been six years since he’s driven a vehicle.

As the car lifted up and tilted back, Obama yelled out, “Whoa!” The car was positioned in front of a screen where cars and trucks whizzed by and the self-described “lead foot” president declared, “I’m going a little fast here.”

He later described the trip as “sort of like Knight Rider” and a “little disorienting.” He estimates he hit 90 miles an hour, “and it got me a little queasy.”

Recovering, he called for greater spending on transportation infrastructure, saying Republicans are blocking his proposal to invest in upgrades to U.S. roads and bridges by closing tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas. The remarks came as Republicans were to vote on a short term proposal to extend federal transportation funding through next spring, rather than the four years Obama is seeking.

Obama said he backs the short term fix, adding “at the very least, Congress should be keeping people on the job who are already there right now.”

But, he warned, “all this does is set us up for the same crisis a few months from now. So Congress shouldn’t pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months, kicking the can down the road for a few months, careening from crisis to crisis when it comes to something as basic as our infrastructure.”

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