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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Obama Proposes Transportation Bill-- the Daily Kos

Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 04:30 PM PST

Obama proposes $302 billion transportation bill

Eastshore Highway (I-80) in the Bay Area
attribution: Wikimedia Commons
President Obama delivered a speech this afternoon outlining his administration's budget proposals for American infrastructure repair and modernization.
One of the most difficult things about the financial crisis we went through was the housing bubble bursting, and construction workers were hammered harder than just about anybody.  And while we’ve cut the unemployment rate for construction workers almost in half since 2010, too many are still looking for jobs at a time when we've got so much that we could put them to work on rebuilding.  We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the next generation of supertankers.  We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. [...] Now, other countries are not waiting to rebuild their infrastructure.  They’re trying to out-build us today so they can out-compete us tomorrow.  As a percentage of GDP, countries like China, Germany, they’re spending about twice what we're spending in order to build infrastructure -- because they know that if they have the fastest trains on the planet or the highest-rated airports or the busiest, most efficient ports that businesses will go there.
A transcript of the speech can be found here, and a White House-provided fact sheet here. The four year, $302 billion proposal will require action on the part of Congress. 
Despite the frequent warnings as to the dire state of national transportation infrastructure, Congress has been as lackadaisical about transportation funding as with most other budget requirements. The CBO estimates that maintaining current infrastructure alone will cost $279 billion over the next four years, far above the levels currently allocated; the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates a more thorough modernization would take at least $3.6 trillion. The administration proposal would reinfuse the near-empty Highway Trust Fund and includes $150 billion in one-time expenditures taken from not yet specified "pro-growth business tax reform" measures, sure to be a bone of Republican contention.

Also highlighted in the speech: $600 million in "Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery" (TIGER) grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. These are competitive grants, intended to be disbursed to state and local projects. The TIGER program has previously disbursed $3.5 billion in infrastructure grants; this additional funding was allocated by the January budget deal.