Obama: Transport projects could be 'stopped in their tracks'

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President Obama said Wednesday that transportation projects “could be stopped in their tracks” this summer if Congress does not approve his $302 billion infrastructure funding proposal. 

Obama is proposing that lawmakers use $150 billion he says can be generated by closing corporate tax loopholes to pass a four-year extension of the surface transportation appropriations currently scheduled to expire in September.

Obama’s proposal would spend about $75 billion per year on road and transit projects, which would be an approximately $25 billion annual increase over current funding levels.

He said during an appearance at St. Paul, Minn.’s Union Depot rail station that his proposal would provide enough money to put off a projected bankruptcy in the trust fund that is used to pay for transportation projects.

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" If Congress doesn’t finish a transportation bill by the end of the summer, we could see construction projects stop in their tracks, machines sitting idle, workers off the job," Obama said.

Obama said he crafted his transportation proposal to prevent construction workers who are working on ongoing infrastructure projects from being put out of work.

"Next week, I'm going to send Congress a budget that funds rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in a more responsible way — by doing it over four years, which gives cities and states and private investors the certainty they need to plan major projects," he said. "Projects like repairing essential highways and bridges; building new transit systems in fast-growing cities and communities, so folks who live there can get to work and school every day and spend less time sitting in traffic."

Obama cited statistics about deficient infrastructure in the U.S., saying an infusion of transportation funding was long overdue.

“We've got over 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare," he said.

He added that recent winter weather that gripped most of the country would only exacerbate road problems in the U.S.

“Everybody knows — and nobody knows better than Minnesotans — when we go through a winter like this, roads are wrecked,” Obama said.

The president pushed Republicans to support his infrastructure funding proposal, even as he spoke about working around them by issuing loan grants through the Department of Transportation.

“Infrastructure didn't used to be partisan issue,” he said. “Everybody uses roads, everybody uses bridges.

“While Congress is deciding what it's going to do next, I'm going to go ahead and do what I can to create jobs," Obama continued. 

Obama’s transportation proposal includes a competition for $600 million in grants that will be issued through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

The TIGER program has proved to be popular with state and local governments that are seeking federal matching funds for road and transit projects.

The grant competition announced by Obama on Wednesday will be the sixth round of TIGER funding awards since the program was created in the 2009 economic stimulus package.