DOT chief: Obama transportation funding proposal ‘bold’

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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that President Obama laid out a “bold vision” for increasing road and transit spending in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

Obama called in his speech for using revenue from closing tax loopholes to pay for new infrastructure projects. He pushed Congress to approve a new surface transportation funding bill by “this summer.”

Foxx said he was “especially glad to hear the president call on Congress to finish a much-needed transportation bill this summer, and the proposal to fund that bill through corporate tax reform can and should be done on a bipartisan basis."

“In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a bold vision for increasing opportunity for all Americans,” Foxx said in a statement. “The road to better opportunities can take many forms – a bridge that helps parents get home faster, a transit system that connects a community to new jobs, or a port that helps businesses sell to more markets – and we at the Department of Transportation look forward to doing our part to help connect all Americans to the 21st century economy.”

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Some transportation advocates were disappointed Tuesday night that Obama did not offer an idea for a new dedicated source of transportation to supplement or replace the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax.

The gas tax brings in approximately $35 billion per year that is used to pay for road and transit projects. However, the current surface transportation that is scheduled to expire in September includes about $54 billion in annual spending, which advocates say is barely enough to maintain the current state of U.S. transportation system.

“The president’s proposal for maintaining roads and bridges is well intentioned, but falls short of what is required because it does not provide a sustainable funding solution for the nation’s transportation problems,” AAA President Robert Darbelnet said in a statement after Obama’s speech Tuesday. 

“AAA urges Congress and the administration to instead focus on options like increasing the gas tax because it is the most effective and fair way to fund transportation in the near term,” Darblenet continued. “A gas tax increase would provide the necessary funds to improve our system, while also upholding the long-standing principle that those who use the roads should pay for their upkeep. Increasing the gas tax is deficit-neutral and would provide funding certainty for the program into the future.”

Foxx did not comment on the gas tax increase proposal, but said he will be “working throughout the year from the federal to the local level to build more infrastructure while growing jobs now and making more jobs possible with first-rate transportation networks."

“We will also build ladders of opportunity, connecting every American to the global economy,” the DOT chief said. 

“As his [State of the Union] speech … shows, President Obama is committed to growing the economy, strengthening the middle class and empowering all those hoping to join it,” Foxx continued. “The Department of Transportation is standing with him, and I am committed to building new opportunities for people to access good jobs, schools and healthcare. Transportation can move us forward, leading to a more prosperous and just America for all its citizens.”