Transportation chief floats Congress highway funding reauthorization proposal

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is sending Congress a transportation bill for consideration as the House and Senate face looming deadlines to avoid the economic uncertainty and job loss that would ensue if the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money this summer.  The GROW AMERICA Act lays the foundation for long-term competitiveness, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges while providing much-needed certainty for local and state governments and addressing the country’s future needs.

“Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable—and unaffordable,” says Secretary Foxx. “This proposal offers the kind of job creation and certainty that the American people want and deserve … Members of both parties are already working together to solve these challenges, and I look forward to continuing our discussion and to supporting and building on the good work that’s already been done.”

Secretary Foxx joined President Obama in late February to announce a plan to address the nation’s infrastructure deficit with a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal. As outlined in the FY2015 budget, the plan will invest in the national infrastructure network, increase safety and efficiency, and provide greater access to ladders of opportunity—all without adding to the deficit, the Adminstration contends, by relying on the President’s proposed pro-growth business tax reforms. The GROW AMERICA Act is based on this plan, and represents a number of proposals that have historically attracted bipartisan support including:

  • Addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund and providing an additional $87 billion to address the nation’s backlog of deficient bridges and aging transit systems;
  • Increasing safety across all modes of surface transportation, including increasing the civil penalties the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can levy against automakers who fail to act quickly on vehicle recalls;
  • Providing certainty to state and local governments that must engage in long-term planning;
  • Reducing project approval and permitting timelines while delivering better outcomes for communities and the environment;
  • Bolstering efficient and reliable freight networks to support trade and economic growth; and
  • Creating incentives to better align planning and investment decisions to comprehensively address regional economic needs while strengthening local decision-making.

“GROW AMERICA makes the sizable investment needed to improve our country’s roads and bridges,” affirms Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “Improving U.S. infrastructure is a national priority, and will ensure America’s economy remains robust for generations yet to come.”

In the face of current uncertainty of federal transportation investment, many states have postponed or canceled needed transportation projects altogether, U.S. DOT officials note, adding that without additional investment, deficiencies in the nation’s infrastructure will cost businesses more than $1 trillion every year in lost sales.  Despite this growing need, the Highway Trust Fund, which provides most of the federal support for state transportation projects, is on track to start bouncing checks as early as August. In January, the Department of Transportation began posting a ticker online so the American people can track the remaining funds, available here.