Obama proposes $302 billion, 4-year transportation bill, announces $600 million in competitive grants

|  February 26, 2014 |

obamainfrastructurespeechPresident Barack Obama has proposed a $302 billion, four-year transportation reauthorization bill with the aim of avoiding the Highway Trust Fund’s looming insolvency as well as providing a much-needed boost to the infrastructure improvements he promised during 2013′s State of the Union address.

Through a White House announcement, Obama also announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation is making available $600 million in TIGER competitive grants to fund transportation projects.

The President will unveil the TIGER funding and lay out the transportation proposal during a speech at the Union Depot train station in Saint Paul, Minnesota later today.

MAP-21, the current two-year, $105 billion surface transportation bill, expires in September and has been decried since its signing as a stop-gap at best for the country’s lack of transportation funding.

A White House announcement today acknowledged and agreed with that sentiment, referring to the way the U.S. currently funds infrastructure as “insufficient to meet the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs and grow our economy.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned last week that should Congress fail to come up with a funding solution, the Highway Trust Fund could begin “bouncing checks” this summer.

The announcement also made mention of the “Fix-it-First” investments Obama introduced during that 2013 State of the Union. The average age of the 600,000 bridges in the U.S. is 43 years old with most only designed to last 50 years. The proposed bill includes policies and reforms that would expedite repairs to roads, bridges and other infrastructure that need immediate attention.

To pay the investment, Obama is proposing to use $150 billion in one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform but is open to suggestions to Congress.

The proposed bill includes $206 billion in highway investment, with $199 billion in highway funding and $7 billion in highway safety improvements. The $199 billion figure represents a 22 percent increase in funding each year over the current bill.

The proposed bill also includes $63 billion to fund the gap in the Highway Trust Fund in the near term. According to the White House, the funding would address the insolvency of the fund for four years.

The bill increases average transit spending by 70 percent annually for a total of $72 billion over four years to fund light rail, street cars, buses and more for small towns, suburbs and fast-growing cities.

The $600 million the USDOT will make immediately make available to the TIGER competitive grant program is a separate announcement and not port of the proposed plan. However, Obama’s proposal would further fund TIGER over four years with an additional $5 billion.

The program was initially funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. The Obama administration says the program has invested $3.5 billion in 270 projects across the country. The White House says demand for TIGER funds has been “overwhelming” with the USDOT receiving more than 5,300 applications requesting nearly $115 billion.

Another $4 billion over four years is set aside in the proposed bill for incentivizing innovation and better performance and cost-effectiveness in U.S. transportation systems.

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