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Obama's proposed gas tax would fund high-speed rail, public transit


President Barack Obama late last week unveiled the details of his proposed $10-a-barrel oil tax to fund "cleaner" transportation options, including rail and public transit.

The fee, which would be paid by oil companies, would be phased in over five years, according to a fact sheet issued by the White House. The tax is part of Obama's fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, which is slated to be released in full tomorrow.

Obama's proposed plan would make public investments and create incentives for private-sector innovation to reduce reliance on oil and cut carbon pollution from the country's transportation sector, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the fact sheet.

The plan would invest nearly $20 billion per year above current spending to reduce traffic and provide new ways for people to get to work and school, the fact sheet said. In particular, proceeds from the tax would help expand transit systems in cities, suburbs and rural areas; make high-speed rail a viable alternative to flying in major regional corridors; invest in new rail technologies like magnetic levitation (maglev); modernize the country's freight system; and expand the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

Additionally, Obama is proposing the creation of a new "Climate Smart Fund" that would provide bonus funding to states that use existing formula funding to cut transportation-related carbon emissions. States could do so by encouraging better land use planning, investing in clean vehicle fueling infrastructure or increasing use of public transportation.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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