Obama proposes $320B for 'clean transportation'

Curtis Compton

President Obama proposes spending $320 billion over the next ten years on a "clean transportation" plan in his final budget released on Tuesday. 

The plan calls for spending $32 billion per year to green the transportation sector by funding public transit, an urban planning initiative and clean vehicle research. 

The White House said the plan, part of a $4.1 trillion budget for fiscal 2017, could be paid for by a proposed $10-per-barrel fee on oil production.

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"By placing a fee on oil, the president’s plan creates a clear incentive for private-sector innovation to reduce America’s reliance on oil and invest in clean energy technologies that will power our future," the White House said of the clean transportation plan. 

"It continues the president’s call to utilize one-time revenues from business tax reform to provide a temporary near-term surge in investment to set us on the right path for the years ahead.

"In addition to transportation investments, 15 percent of revenues would be allocated to provide assistance to families with burdensome energy costs, including a focus on supporting households in the Northeast as they transition from fuel oil for heating to cleaner forms of energy," the White House added. 

The new transportation proposal from Obama comes after lawmakers passed a five-year, $305 billion highway bill last fall. 

The White House said the president's new proposal would increase annual spending on road and transit projects by approximately $20 billion per year. 

The plan includes a $10 billion annual increase for Federal Transit Administration programs that have been used to help states build new light rail and streetcars that have been touted by the Obama administration. 

The White House said the plan also includes $7 billion per year to reaffirm "the administration’s commitment to high-speed rail."   

The proposal would also double the amount of money that is available for the popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program that was created by the 2009 economic stimulus bill. The TIGER program, which currently authorized at about $500 million, allows states to apply for funding for transportation projects that "will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region," according to the DOT's website. 

Obama said that the highway bill passed by Congress last year was just a down-payment on a backlog of transportation projects that are badly-needed. 

"The nation’s transportation system was built around President Eisenhower’s vision of interstate highways connecting 20th Century America," the White House said. "That vision enabled economic expansion and prosperity, fostered a new era for automobiles, and supported the growth of the Nation’s metropolitan areas. 

"Unfortunately, today the remains of that system—the crumbling highways, bridges, and passenger rail system—are not ready to meet the challenges of a growing 21st Century economy," the White House continued. "Due to underinvestment, American infrastructure that was once the envy of the world is now ranked 19th behind countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Spain." 

Obama said his plan to boost federal transportation spending "would help to put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work modernizing our infrastructure to ease congestion and make it easier for businesses to bring goods to market through new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and high-speed rail, funded through a fee paid by oil companies."  

The full White House budget proposal can be read here.

-Devin Henry contribute to this report.