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Obama Lays Out Vision for Transportation

President Obama, on Feb. 26, spoke at the Union Depot train station in St. Paul, Minn., where he outlined his vision for investing in America’s infrastructure with a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal.

He is proposing an aggressive four-year plan to modernize our nation’s roads and bridges. The proposal is accompanied by a pro-growth, bipartisan approach to financing the plan.

The president’s budget outlined his proposal to dedicate $150 billion in one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform to address the funding crisis facing our surface transportation programs and increase infrastructure investment. “This amount is sufficient to not only fill the current funding gap in the Highway Trust Fund, but increase surface transportation investment over current projected levels by nearly $90 billion over the next four years,” he said.

When taking into account existing funding for surface transportation, this plan will result in a total of $302 billion being invested over four years to modernize the transportation infrastructure of the United States. The president said he is open to all ideas for how to achieve this important objective, and will work closely with members of Congress of both parties on a solution that will invest in more job creating transportation projects.

The president said he is also looking forward to working with Congress on bipartisan ideas to attract more private investment, such as a national infrastructure bank or the recent infrastructure financing authority proposal from Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

“It is good that both President Obama and [House Ways and Means Committee Chairman] Chairman David Camp (R-Mich.) recognize the critical need to address the rapidly approaching transportation fiscal cliff and much needed infrastructure improvements,” said Michael Johnson, president and CEO of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA). “NSSGA continues to support the passage of a long-term surface transportation authorization and will keep an open mind as to the best sustainable solution to future funding. Rocks built America and our members stand ready to provide all the rock products necessary to build the America that will once again be the infrastructure envy of the world.”

American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President and CEO Pete Ruane also expressed cautious optimism.

“It is obvious the urgent need to fix the Highway Trust Fund is on the radar screen of the White House and leaders in the House and Senate from both parties,” he said. “It is also an area for common ground and is ripe for bipartisanship. It is imperative that Congress and the president direct their energies at finding a Highway Trust Fund solution before the Federal Highway Administration is unable to reimburse states this summer for road and transit projects that have already been approved. Failure to act in a timely manner would deliver a crippling blow to the U.S. economy and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of American workers.”

Obama also announced a new round of TIGER grants. This funding and opportunity for governors, mayors and other local leaders to partner with the federal government is a result of the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act the president signed in January.

The program:

  • Supports High-Value Transportation Projects Across the Country. The highly competitive TIGER program supports a range of projects, including roads, bridges, transit, rail, and ports, and offers one of the few federal funding sources for game-changing projects that integrate different modes of transportation. The TIGER program invests in projects that will have a significant impact on the nation or a region, and federal funds are used to make such projects possible and leverage additional funding from private sector partners, states, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations and transit agencies.
  • Encourages Improved Job Access and Increased Economic Opportunity. In an effort to expand economic opportunities for all Americans, the 2014 TIGER program will place an emphasis on projects that support reliable, safe, and affordable transportation options that improve connections for urban, suburban, and rural communities. While continuing to support projects of all types, a priority will be placed in this sixth round of applications on projects that make it easier for Americans to get to jobs, school, and other opportunities, promote neighborhood revitalization and business expansion, and reconnect neighborhoods that are unnaturally divided by physical barriers such as highways and railroads.
  • Prioritizes Transformative Projects. Successful projects in the highly competitive process will be those with the potential to improve economic competitiveness and create jobs, improve the condition of existing transportation systems, improve quality of life by increasing transportation options, improve energy efficiency, reduce fuel consumption and encourage resiliency, and/or improve the safety of our transportation systems.
  • Offers $35 Million to Help Communities Design Economic Development Plans. In addition to supporting capital grants, Congress provided the U.S. Department of Transportation with the flexibility to use up to $35 million of the 2014 TIGER funds for planning grants for the first time since 2010. These funds can be used to support the planning of innovative transportation solutions, as well as regional transportation planning, freight and port planning, housing and land use development, and resiliency efforts that improve efficiency and sustainable community development.