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Budget outlines $556 billion infrastructure plan

The Obama administration recently announced a six-year, $53 billion plan to expand high-speed rail. The 2012 budget contains $8 billion for the project. The plan builds on the $10.5 billion already devoted to high-speed rail,  including $8 billion in economic stimulus funds and $2.5 billion from the 2010 budget. 

House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.), criticized the plan and expressed support for building high-speed rail with private funding.

"Investment will only be made if bipartisan financing is found to ensure that it does not increase the deficit," according to the budget document.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently said he was optimistic that Congress can complete a long-term surface transportation reauthorization before the August recess. 

LaHood said he has discussed the long-delayed measure with House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerSenate clears water bill with Flint aid, drought relief Senate Dem blocks own bill over California drought language House passes water bill with Flint aid, drought relief MORE (D-Calif.). 

"I'd like to have a transportation bill on the president's desk by the August recess." 

He said the bill would be "significant and substantial" and that lawmakers in the House and Senate appear committed to complete the legislation. 

The problem in passing a comprehensive bill has been how to pay for it. Many lawmakers agreed the easiest way was to raise the gas tax but it's not politically viable, especially during the economic downturn. 

LaHood touted the $48 billion included in the economic stimulus as helping start 15,000 projects and creating thousands of jobs in the past two years.  

The most recent authorization for the nation’s highway, transit and highway safety programs expired in September 2009.

Mica's committee has scheduled a series of field hearings, beginning Feb. 14. 

Former Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who proposed a $500 billion measure in 2009 that included $50 billion for high-speed rail efforts, saw his legislation put on hold by the Obama administration because of the large price tag and the lack of a funding mechanism. 

Before leaving Congress, Oberstar continued to argue that a six-year bill would create 6 million jobs in the time frame.