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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Obama releases infrastructure plan; Rep. Shuster calls it a short-term fix


Yesterday, President Barack Obama released details on his proposal to invest in U.S. infrastructure.

The plan, which Obama mentioned during his State of the Union address earlier this month, calls for adopting a "fix-it-first" policy to invest $50 billion in transportation infrastructure, with $40 billion targeted at the most urgent upgrades. The plan focuses on fixing highways, bridges, transit systems and airports most in need of repair, according to a statement released by the White House.

The president's plan also would seek to increase private investment through a "Rebuild America Partnership," which would partner federal, state, and local governments with businesses and capital to build or improve U.S. electric, water and communications networks.

Obama repeated his call for the creation of a national infrastructure bank that would leverage private and public capital to support infrastructure projects of national and regional significance. In addition, the president wants to enact a new "American Fast Forward" (AFF) bond program to attract new sources of capital for infrastructure investment. The AFF would build on the "Build America Bonds" (BABs) program that was part of the federal Recovery Act and helped provide more than $181 billion for new public infrastructure.

The president's plan also seeks to cut the paperwork and bureaucratic red tape involved in the infrastructure project approval process to speed up their completion.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said he was "encouraged" by the president's call for cutting government red tape and streamlining project delivery. But the president's infrastructure plan represents only a short-term answer to longer-term challenges, he said in a statement issued yesterday.

"We need to find additional opportunities to move projects ahead faster in all modes of transportation to save time and money," Shuster said. "It can take the Army Corps of Engineers 17 years to complete a major port terminal project that takes the private sector only seven years. I hope the president will be willing to work with Congress on this and other long-term solutions to our substantial  infrastructure needs."