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U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has outlined his concerns about funding gaps in long-term transportation bills proposed by the House and the Senate.In a letter he penned to Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and released Monday, Foxx noted that each proposal significantly cuts funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program."The TIFIA program is a critical tool for financing roads, rails, and other surface transportation projects that help move people and goods and grow our economy," wrote Foxx, adding that legislators should not "hamstring the program by reducing its funding below current levels."He added that the proposals lack any funding or authorization for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.Additionally, funding levels for administrative activities in the House's version of the bill are insufficient to administer programs supported by it and required under existing laws, according to Foxx. This gap in funding would make it impossible to staff the programs at needed levels, he said.Although he expressed concern about some elements of the bills, Foxx praised the Senate for including a rail title as part of its version. He also expressed support for the Senate's proposal to include $199 million to help commuter railroads install positive train control.Foxx further said that he supports the inclusion of a rail title with increased funding as part of any final comprehensive surface transportation bill."Cities in the South and West are growing at a rapid pace and we believe that rail transportation will be a critical tool in alleviating worsening congestion in these communities," Foxx wrote. "At the same time, our rail infrastructure in the Northeast and Midwest is in desperate need of modernization, including century-old rail tunnels that support the busiest rail corridor in the nation."Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) also sent a letter to members of the House-Senate Conference Committee that will negotiate the final version of the multi-year transportation bill. In the letter, Carper asked conferees to consider increasing gas and diesel taxes by a "modest amount." "This is the fairest, fastest, and most efficient way to raise the revenues we need to embark on a significant nationwide effort to rebuild and renew our country’s infrastructure," Carper wrote.He also urged legislators to ensure that their conference report includes a "robustly funded" freight investment program that offers states and cities project support through formula grants.
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