Obama renews call for $50B in new spending on roads, bridges

President Obama on Wednesday renewed his call for Congress to spend $50 billion to improve the nation’s roads and infrastructure. 

The proposal is a repackaging of Obama proposals from his 2011 “American Jobs Act” and he previewed it in last week’s State of the Union address. 

{mosads}The White House outlined the plan in a press release Wednesday, saying Obama wants to spend $40 billion on “most urgent upgrades” to highways, bridges, public transportation systems and airports. 

The remaining $10 billion of the plan would go toward the creation of a national infrastructure bank, which Obama has also called for in the past. The entire program is dubbed “fix it first” by the White House. 

Obama in his State of the Union address argued that the infrastructure program would fix as many as 70,000 “structurally deficient” bridges. He also said most lawmakers supported the work in their districts.

“I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts,” he said in his Feb. 12 speech. “I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.” 

Congress approved some of Obama’s 2011 Jobs Act, but the transportation funding languished amid Republican complaints that it was a rehash of the 2009 economic stimulus package. 

Republicans in Congress have said they favor allowing states to create their own infrastructure banks, but transportation supporters have noted that more than 30 states do not have one in place. 

The White House says the “fix it first” plan would encourage public-private partnerships, leveraging the initial government funding to increase private sector spending on transportation.

“The president’s plan will bring together an array of new and existing policies all aimed at enhancing the role of private capital in U.S. infrastructure investment as a vital additive to the traditional roles of federal, state, and local governments,” the White House statement said.

The private funding would be sought using federal loan guarantee programs like the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), which has proven to be popular with state and local governments.

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