On February 26, President Obama announced a proposal to fund a four year surface transportation bill that would increase spending by 22% for highways and 70% for transit over current levels. The White House provided a Fact Sheet that outlines to proposal. The current law, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) expires at the end of September. That means that a new bill or an extension must be agreed to by both Houses of Congress by that time. The President's envisions a $302 billion four year bill that builds on the substantive provisions of MAP-21. More specifically,
- Administration envisions finding an additional $150 billion for a one time infusion into the Highway Trust Fund through various tax reforms. This would cure the current shortfall and provide for an additional $90 billion dollars over current trust fund revenues, allowing for the four year $302 billion dollar bill.
- The plan highlights a Fix-it-First approach to encourage greater emphasis on repairing existing transportation facilities.
- The proposal would provide $206 billion for highway projects, $72 billion for transit, $19 billion for rail, and $10 billion for a multimodal freight grant program.
- The program would continue the TIFIA program at the current level of $1 billion per year.
- Also envisioned are new provisions to enhance program efficiency, improving project delivery and expediting the regulatory review process.
- The program would continue current themes of focusing on transportation design to support more resilient communities.
AASHTO welcomed the announcement, particularly because of the additional funding it would provide for transportation funding and for addressing the growing shortfall in the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Chairman Shuster of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was encouraged by the President's proposal, noting that Chairman Camp of the House Ways and Means Committee also proposed funding transportation through $125 billion in tax reforms.
The White House Fact Sheet was not clear as to whether the Administration plans to send a bill to Congress. It also said nothing about additional funding for high speed raid projects. Finally, the statement made no mention of long term fixes for highway trust fund, such as additional or alternative users fees, beyond the life of the four year proposal.
The White House also announced a new $600 million for TIGER grants from the Consolidated Appropriation Act, signed by the President on January 17, 2014. It is clear that the Administration would like to continue TIGER grants for the foreseeable future.
The White House Fact Sheet can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/02/26/fact-sheet-president-obama-lays-out-vision-21st-century-transportation-i.
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