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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Obama proposes $302 billion plan for transportation infrastructure

President Barack Obama yesterday outlined a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal to support infrastructure projects for roads, bridges, railways and transit systems.

The plan would replace the current surface transportation law known as MAP-21, which expires on Oct. 1. The president's plan includes a proposal to dedicate $150 billion in revenue through business tax reforms to shore up the gas-tax-dependent Highway Trust Fund, which has been projected to run out of funds as early as this year.

"One of the fastest and best ways to create good jobs is by rebuilding America's infrastructure — our roads, our bridges, our rails, our ports, our airports, our schools, our power grids. We've got a lot of work to do out there, and we've got to put folks to work," Obama said in a prepared statement.

The president made the announcement at the Union Depot rail station in St. Paul, Minn., which was restored with a grant from the first round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. At the event, the president also announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will make $600 million available in transportation infrastructure project grants under a sixth round of TIGER funding. Grant applications are due to the USDOT by April 28.

Under TIGER VI, the USDOT will "prioritize applications for capital projects that better connect people to jobs, training, and other opportunities; promote neighborhood redevelopment; and reconnect neighborhoods divided by physical barriers like highways and railroads," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote in yesterday’s USDOT "Fast Lane" blog.

Also yesterday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced his tax reform proposal, which would dedicate $126.5 billion to the Highway Trust Fund to fully fund highway and infrastructure investment through the fund for eight years.

A number of transportation associations responded yesterday to the Obama and/or Camp proposals. A sampling:

"The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is thrilled that President Obama has put transportation funding front and center in his agenda with this announcement. This is a critical step forward in building the 21st century transportation infrastructure we need to connect Americans in every region of this country, and to compete with international economies that have made so much progress without us." — Richard Harnish, the association's executive director

"The crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund and our national transportation infrastructure is very real. It is good news that the administration and congressional leadership in both houses are looking seriously at strategies to invest in transportation and maintain the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and the programs it supports." — American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' Executive Director Bud Wright

"It's encouraging that transportation funding received a boost [yesterday] from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. These ideas will start the conversation, but we need to turn the talk into serious action, both short term and long term, and move quickly toward a funding program before the Trust Fund becomes insolvent beginning in August." — American Council of Engineering Companies' President and CEO David Raymond

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/27/2014