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DOT Budget Bill Aims to ‘Grow America’

Thursday, May 1, 2014

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“Transformative transportation projects” that will save bridges, strengthen roads, extend rail, stabilize funding, improve safety, and employ millions of Americans are the promise of a $302 billion proposal now before the U.S. Congress.

On Tuesday (April 29), U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled the four-year transportation bill he sent to Congress as the clock ticks down on the expected end-of-summer extinction of the Highway Trust Fund.

Transportation Montage
Images: U.S. DOT

The four-year, $302 billion GROW AMERICA proposal identifies "12 critical transportation needs."

The GROW AMERICA Act fleshes out the Obama Administration's promise Feb. 26 for a multiyear surface transportation reauthorization proposal to address what the Department of Transportation calls "12 critical transportation needs."

$90B Increase

GROW AMERICA is an acronym for Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America.

DOT says the plan, extensively detailed on its website, "will do exactly what its name implies."

The measure will increase surface transportation investment by $90 billion over the next four years and avert Highway Trust Fund insolvency this summer without increasing the federal deficit, officials say.

DOT chart

U.S. DOT is making an environmental, financial, efficiency and safety case for its proposal.

In addition to current revenues, the measure assumes $150 billion from one-time "pro-growth business tax reform."

Foxx announced in January that the Highway Fund would go broke by August. Since then, the agency has posted monthly updates on exactly how much money is left.

'Unacceptable and Unaffordable'

“I visited eight states and 13 cities as part of my Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour this month and everywhere I went, I heard the same thing—people want more transportation options and better roads and bridges to get them where they need to go,” Foxx said Tuesday.

Traffic Crumbling Bridge

Traffic congestion in the U.S. wastes 5.5 billion hours a year, and one in four bridges is deficient, according to DOT.

“Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable—and unaffordable."

Foxx says the GROW AMERICA plan is built on precepts and priorities that have previously drawn bipartisan support.

"This proposal offers the kind of job creation and certainty that the American people want and deserve," he said. "I have been pleased to see that members of both parties are already working together to solve these challenges...."

Highlights

The 350-page bill contains everything from heightened oversight of bus ticket vendors to higher penalties for delays on auto recalls. An overview says the measure would:

HTF Ticker

The Highway Trust Fund began FY2014 with about $1.6 billion in cash. It is expected to run dry in August.

  • Address the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund and provide an additional $87 billion to address a nationwide backlog of deficient bridges and aging transit systems;
  • Create millions of new jobs;
  • Increase safety "across all modes of surface transportation;"
  • Increase tenfold (up to $300 million) the civil penalties that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can levy against automakers who fail to act quickly on vehicle recalls;
  • Provide certainty to state and local governments that must engage in long-term planning;
  • Reduce project approval and permitting timelines;
  • Bolster "efficient and reliable" freight networks and increase the safety of hazmat shipments; and
  • Create incentives to better align planning and investment decisions at the regional and local levels.

Fact Sheets on GROW AMERICA's site detail how the Administration expects the bill to improve the condition of highways and bridges, public transportation and freight movement; make projects more efficient; promote innovative financing; and more.

Local control

DOT says the bill includes provisions to increase local control of federally funded infrastructure projects.

According to DOT, nearly one in four U.S. bridges is structurally deficient, 45 percent of Americans do not have access to transit, and nearly two-thirds of major U.S. roads are not in good condition.

Safety and Sales

Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau said the plan "makes the sizable investment needed to improve our country’s roads and bridges."

Joseph C. Szabo, Federal Railroad Administrator, said the measure will improve rail safety, performance and technology.

Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator Cynthia Quarterman said it would increase safety for the more than 6.1 million tons of hazardous materials that criss-cross through the U.S. transportation networks.

According to DOT, "many states have postponed or canceled needed transportation projects altogether. And without additional investment, deficiencies in our nation’s infrastructure will cost businesses more than $1 trillion every year in lost sales."

   

Tagged categories: Airports; Bridges; Construction; Department of Transportation (DOT); DOT; Economy; Environmental Protection; Government; Government contracts; Jobs; Rail; Roads/Highways

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