President Obama will sign the $305 billion highway bill introduced this week by lawmakers in the House and Senate, the White House said Wednesday.
The 1,300-page bill, paid for with gas tax revenue and a package of $70 billion in offsets from other areas of the federal budget, calls for spending approximately $205 billion on highways and $48 billion on transit projects over the next five years.
The measure comes just days before transportation spending is set to expire on Dec. 4. It also reauthorizes the controversial Export-Import Bank’s expired charter until 2019.
"If passed, this legislation would be a real step forward for our transportation infrastructure after years of short-term patches," Earnest told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday.
"We've talked a lot about the need that state and local authorities have for some certainty," Earnest continued. "Infrastructure projects often -- at least the most impactful ones -- often will take years to build, and if the federal government is providing funding at increments of a few months at a time, it's going to undermine their ability to effectively plan for the long-term."
If enacted, the package would reflect the first transportation funding legislation to last longer than two years since 2005.
Obama has railed against short-term transportation funding bills during his tenure in office, but he has signed dozens patches to prevent interruptions in the nation's road and transit funding, including recent measures that lasted two and three weeks.
Earnest said Wednesday that Congress "putting forward something like a five-year proposal is obviously an important step in the right direction."
He noted that the Obama administration "has put forward a transportation funding bill that actually is substantially larger," noting that Obama proposed a six-year, $478 billion highway bill earlier this year.
"So we would actually view this legislation as a step in the right direction, but only a first step because we believe that there are more infrastructure projects that are worthy of funding that would create jobs in the short-term and lay a long-term foundation for our ongoing economic strength over the long-term," he said. "We'll see what Congress chooses to do from here."
Earnest said Obama's preference for a larger highway funding package will not prevent him from accepting the highway bill, however.
"I'm certainly applauding Congress's bipartisan efforts to pass the bill, because if it's passed, the president would sign it," he said.