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A $336 Billion Question

obama1February 16, 2011 – President Obama's initial budget for transportation, on first glance, makes your eyes pop. According to an analysis by The National Stone Sand and Gravel Association, the president is requesting $70.5 billion for highways and bridges for FY ‘12, a $29 billion increase over the FY ‘10 enacted funding level. Also, $27.65 billion of that increase is in "Up-Front" funding, intended to jump-start job creation and progress on highway and bridge projects. This number represents the first year of a six-year $336 billion proposal to rebuild America’s infrastructure and comes with several sweeping changes in transportation policy. But once you get past the excitement of a $336 billion, six-year transportation reauthorization, that's where the questions start. How do we pay for it? Is combining The Highway Trust Fund (renamed the Transportation Trust Fund) combining current highway and transit accounts with two new accounts for passenger rail and the National Infrastructure Bank a good idea? In an era where limiting government spending is a buzzword and a priority for newly elected legislators, will Congress finally see this for the economic-stimulus value it has and the critical public safety issues it addresses? Will the administration continue to let loud voices from the back benches frame this part of his budget as excessive government spending? Much will transpire before final numbers are decided upon, but $336 billion is a heck of a good place to start.