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President Obama proposes $50 billion for transportation infrastructure upgrades


Yesterday, President Obama announced a $50 billion spending plan aimed at expanding and renewing the nation’s transportation infrastructure, including railways, roads and airport runways.

The proposed plan — which President Obama aims to pair with the next surface transportation reauthorization bill — would build on investments already made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and provide new allocations. The plan also would reform the way the nation currently invests in transportation, moving away from earmarks and formula debates and toward “enhancing competition, innovation, performance and real analysis that gets taxpayers the best bang for the buck,” President Obama said in a prepared statement.

The plan calls for providing a $50 billion “upfront investment” to help build and maintain 4,000 miles of rail, rebuild 150,000 miles of roads, and rehabilitate or reconstruct 150 miles of runway.

The rail dollars target transit-rail systems that have “fallen into a state of ill-repair," public transit system expansions and “significant” new funding for the federal New Starts program, according to President Obama. In addition, the plan would build on high-speed-rail investments and provide funding for a “long-overdue” overhaul of Amtrak’s rolling stock fleet, he said.

The plan also proposes to establish an “Infrastructure Bank” to leverage federal dollars and focus on investments of national and regional significance that “often fall through the cracks in the current siloed transportation programs,” said President Obama.

“This marks an important departure from the federal government’s traditional way of spending on infrastructure through earmarks and formula-based grants that are allocated more by geography and politics than demonstrated value,” he said. “Instead, the bank will base its investment decisions on clear analytical measures of performance, competing projects against each other to determine which will produce the greatest return for American taxpayers.”

Building America’s Future voiced support for the Administration's proposed plan and pledged to help identify funding options. Founded in 2008 by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Building America’s Future coalition supports "smart" infrastructure investments and reforms to enhance communities’ quality of life and safety, create jobs and spur economic growth.

“A reformed, robust transportation infrastructure program will speed needed repairs for our crumbling assets, eliminate time Americans waste in traffic and establish a true high-speed passenger-rail network,” said Rendell in a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/7/2010