Obama Sends $302 Billion Highway Bill to Congress

The Obama Administration first-ever surface transportation reauthorization proposal was officially sent to Congress last week when Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made the announcement, and of the total $302 billion in transportation spending spread out over four years, $150 billion would come from a one-time infusion of funds generated from corporate tax reforms. 

Up to $10 billion would be dedicated to freight, and half of that would be distributed through a two-tiered incentive grant program for states. Other incentives include will include creating a state freight advisory council and state freight plan, and collaborating with neighboring states to analyze infrastructure needs. The remaining $5 billion, plus any unused money from the state-based incentive grant program, would be distributed through a discretionary competitive grant program to support freight-related infrastructure investments across all freight-carrying modes.

“Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable – and unaffordable,” Foxx said. “This proposal offers the kind of job creation and certainty that the American people want and deserve.”

The GROW AMERICA Act — Generating Renewal, Opportunity and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America — will prop up the Highway Trust Fund and rely on business tax reform to generate money for infrastructure projects, Foxx says.

While most of the bill's details were already leaked in bits and pieces, most of the trucking industry groups were quick to attack the fact it gives states the authority to toll existing Interstates and with an expanded share of funding for transit and rail programs.

“Any proposal that moves away from a user-fee funded transportation system is not going to be acceptable to the American trucking industry, period,” American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves said. “Furthermore, we have real questions about the viability of the administration’s plan to use one-time proceeds from an unspecified and unlikely to pass corporate tax reform idea, along with inefficient highway tolling or private capital financing.”

While trucks move nearly 70 percent of all U.S. freight, the administration proposal uses the words “truck,” “trailer” or “motor carrier” just 91 times, while referencing “train” or “rail” a remarkable 518 times, ATA points out.

“Even more disheartening, the only reference to trucking in the administration’s announcement is a proposal by the Department of Transportation to impose a one-size-fits-all compensation model on an incredibly diverse industry – an extraordinarily misguided proposal for a department that claims to be data-driven,” added ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki.

Not surprisingly, the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association applauded the tolling language in the bill, calling it “a bold step.”

“In releasing their proposal today, Secretary Foxx and the administration recognize the importance of giving states the maximum amount of flexibility to use all appropriate funding and financing tools to meet their 21st century funding challenges,” said Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO of IBTTA. “Now is the time to incorporate new and innovative ways to fund our nation’s transportation needs. Today’s administration proposal opens the door for state governments to take advantage of all the tools in the toolbox to meet their local transportation funding needs.”

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