Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday promoted the Union Depot in St. Paul as an example of how federal investment in infrastructure spurred economic growth following the recession.
“The reason I’m here in the depot is to show what private-public partnerships are all about [and] how they can stimulate investments,” Biden told a crowd of about 250 people.
St. Paul was the final stop on Biden’s three-city tour to promote the seventh anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The $800 billion stimulus package President Obama signed into law in 2009 included $45 million to transform the Union Depot into a transit hub.
This week Biden also visited the Port of New Orleans and a freight yard outside Memphis.
During a 25-minute speech, the vice president said the administration made “a lot of tough decisions” during the financial crisis.
“We’ve gone from crisis to recovery and I’m so tired of hearing everybody talking down America’s prospects,” Biden said. “My God, we’re on the cusp of a resurgence like we haven’t seen since World War II, if we just get out of our own way … just realized the enormous potential that we have.”
“Ladies and gentleman, Europe decided not to stimulate,” Biden said. “Where are they? Look where the rest of the world is.” He drew applause when he added: “We’ve created more jobs in this country because of projects like this than every other industrial country in the world combined.”
Local officials have credited the depot’s revival three years ago with stimulating growth in Lowertown, though they say more time is needed to see the investment pay off. The depot - which Biden described as a "beautiful old facility" -- cost $243 million to renovate overall.
The vice president said every dollar spent on the kind of transportation grants that helped fund the Union Depot’s renovation brought in four more off the sidelines.
Noting that he had logged 2 million miles on Amtrak, Biden said that transportation was the key to connecting people and jobs.
“People want to live here because they have options to get them to work and get them back home quickly and conveniently to get to [their] job on time,” Biden said. They needed transit to do that, he added, explaining that significant number of people here and in other cities still don’t have cars.
In recent years the depot has hosted visits from national Democrats, including President Obama, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and U.S. transportation secretaries Ray LaHood and Anthony Foxx. A parade of local DFLers introduced Biden, including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, Gov. Mark Dayton, and Ramsey County Commissioners Rafael Ortega and Victoria Reinhardt.