Obama sends four-year, $302 billion transportation bill to Congress

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The Obama administration today delivered a four-year, $302 billion transportation funding bill to Congress as a deadline loomed for avoiding a shutdown of federally funded projects.

“The proposal comes at the most crucial moment for transportation in the last several years,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a conference call with reporters. “States are already cancelling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty at the federal level.”

The current authorization law for transportation, called MAP-21, expires at the end of September. The Highway Trust Fund, the principal source of funding for transportation projects, is expected to run out of money before that.

Congressional inaction would stop projects, threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs and “inflict unnecessary damage on our economy,” Mr. Foxx said.

The administration is calling its proposal the Grow America Act. It would shore up the Highway Trust Fund with new revenue from reforms to business taxation and provide an additional $87 billion to improve deficient bridges and transit systems, according to a summary.

It would provide for improvements to freight rail, highways and ports; streamline the process for project approval and permits; and relax a current federal prohibition on imposing tolls on interstate highways.

States would, with federal approval, be authorized to impose tolls on existing highways that are currently free or place tolled lanes on highways to manage congestion. Toll revenue that is not needed to maintain the highway could be shifted to other uses.

The legislation calls for a 37 percent overall annual spending increase on transportation programs, including 21 percent for highways and 69 percent for transit. Funding for passenger rail service would be increased 71 percent.

The current two-year law did not provide for increased transportation spending.

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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