President Obama asking for infrastructure investment

President Barack Obama recently sent Congress his budget plan that includes a six-year, $478 billion road, transit and rail proposal.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), was quick to applaud the proposal.

“We applaud the President and his administration for their leadership that has set the stage for a serious discussion about the next surface transportation bill,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director. “We know the hardest conversations will involve how to fund infrastructure investments. We look forward to working with the President and Congress on developing a new transportation bill supported by a long-term, sustainable source of funding.”

The Federal Highway Trust Fund and the current surface transportation authorization are scheduled to expire May 31.

The administration’s proposal included a detailed funding measure that calls for a one-time 14 percent tax on companies’ foreign earnings left overseas. Those revenues would be dedicated to infrastructure.

Leaders in the House and Senate are developing their own solutions to the soon to expire Transportation Trust Fund.

“I’m in discussions with my colleagues in the House and Senate to determine the best way forward to address our country’s overall infrastructure needs, as well as specific funding for a multi-year surface transportation bill, and to do so without raising gas taxes,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), vice-chair of the Senate Republican Conference and a member of the Appropriations and Commerce committees.

American Public Transportation Association (APTA) CEO Micheal Melaniphy said the administration’s proposal would create new, dedicated funding for public transportation, intercity passenger rail and highways, to better address needs in all these areas.

“This higher level of investment would not only help to address the aging infrastructure needs of public transit systems, but also allow for expanded public transit systems to meet the growing demand,” he said.

“The president’s budget recognizes the obvious. Status quo federal investment levels in America’s highways, bridges, and transit systems just won’t cut it anymore and isn’t a formula for strong economic growth. Passage of a robust, six-year transportation investment proposal as envisioned by the president would send the right signal to states planning new projects and to private sector companies contemplating whether to hire workers and make capital investment decisions,” said Peter Ruane, CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

Here’s some highlights from the president’s proposal:

  • $317 billion over six years for road and bridge programs, or 29 percent above fiscal 2015 enacted levels. That includes $29.4 billion over six years for “critical immediate safety investments.” A new $18 billion multimodal freight program run by the Federal Highway Administration would start at $1 billion in 2016 and reach $4 billion in 2019, for projects that tie in other transportation modes. The plan would also let the FHWA administer $500 million a year in competitive FAST grants for “fixing and accelerating surface transportation.”
  • $117 billion for transit, which would increase by 79 percent over 2015 levels. DOT said that increase will enable the expansion of new projects that improve connectivity, such as light rail, streetcars and bus rapid transit, in suburbs, fast-growing cities, small towns, and rural communities, while still maintaining existing transit systems. The Federal Transit Administration would also receive $500 million a year for FAST grant awards.
  • $28.6 billion for Amtrak and other passenger rail programs. That would increase federal support for Amtrak’s current passenger service to $2.44 billion the first year and create a $2.3 billion account to invest in rail system expansions and upgrades. The six-year plan includes spending $3.05 billion to help commuter railroads build automated collision-avoidance systems.
  • The DOT’s TIFIA loan program would be maintained at $1 billion a year, which leverages up to 10 times that much in total project financing.
  • The plan would sharply expand the department’s TIGER infrastructure grant program to $1.25 billion a year from $500 million this year.

“Our budget proposal lays the foundation for a future where our transportation infrastructure meets the demands of a growing population and an economy that depends on the free flow of freight,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. But he said that depends on Congress passing a long-term reauthorization to put Americans to work rebuilding America.”