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Obama'S $50 Billion Plan


President Barack Obama rolled out a transportation-funding plan that calls for a quick $50 billion jolt of federal money. However, Congress will have

President Barack Obama rolled out a transportation-funding plan that calls for a quick $50 billion jolt of federal money. However, Congress will have to make the money available.

Critical to the plan is reauthorizing a long-term transportation bill and frontloading $50 billion in the first year to spark job growth. The problems here are that Congress has been unable to move a reauthorization bill since the last one expired at the end of September 2009, and there's very little time left before the November elections.

Yet, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, seemed to be onboard.

ìI am very pleased that the president wants to build on the success of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with further investment in our national transportation infrastructure,î Oberstar says. ìThe principles outlined by the president are consistent with those put forward by the Committee in the Blueprint for Investment and Reform and the Surface Transportation Authorization Act. I applaud the goals of this initiative and look forward to working with President Obama and Secretary [of Transportation Ray]LaHood in further developing this proposal and moving it through Congress.î

Administration officials told the New York Times that the $50 billion can be paid for by eliminating tax breaks and subsidies to oil and gas companies. The administration says the $50 billion would buy 150,000 miles of road, 4,000 miles of rail track and 150 miles of runways.

Obama is asking Congress to establish an infrastructure bank that would pool public and private money and use a committee to select projects to fund. This is a departure from the traditional way of spending on infrastructure through earmarks and formula-based grants that are allocated more by geography and politics than demonstrated value, the administration says. Instead, the bank will base its investment decisions on analytical measures of performance, comparing projects against each other to determine which will produce the greatest return.

The administration says it would expand the public transit systems and dedicate significant new funding to the New Starts program, which supports locally planned, implemented and operated major transit projects. The administration continued its call for investing in high-speed rail. The president's plan also would invest in overhauling Amtrak's fleet. The proposal would help airports modernize the air traffic control system, known as NextGen.

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