Advocates 'encouraged' by transport funding proposals

Advocates 'encouraged' by transport funding proposals
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Transportation advocates are saying that they are "encouraged" by a pair of proposals released by President Obama and House Republican budget writers to boost infrastructure spending. 

Obama unveiled a proposal for a four-year, $302 billion transportation bill that he said could be paid for with $150 billion in savings from closing corporate tax loopholes, in addition to revenue collected by the federal gas tax. 

Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) released a proposed tax reform bill that included provisions redirecting $126.5 billion to transportation projects. 

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) President Randy Over said both proposals were steps in the right direction. 

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"President Obama’s proposed $302 billion transportation plan is an encouraging step forward in addressing the impending cliff our nation faces this year with the Highway Trust Fund," Over said in a statement. "When the Highway Trust Fund becomes insolvent later this year, road and bridge projects will cease, payments will stop, and the shockwaves throughout our economy will be significant.

“As if the president’s proposal weren’t momentum enough, we were also happy to see a transportation proposal from House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp," Over continued. "Both the President’s proposal and Chairman Camp’s proposal offer a much-needed fix for the Highway Trust Fund.

"Ultimately, America’s transportation system needs long-term, sustainable revenue sources," he continued, "but we are encouraged by this bi-partisan effort to identify funding before it is too late. For state DOTs, local governments, and transit agencies across the country, it’s difficult to plan a large-scale project if you don’t know how much funding there will be or if the project can even be completed."

Both Obama and Camp's proposals would deliver a badly needed infusion of cash to the Highway Trust Fund, which is currently being projected to go bankrupt as early as August.

The trust fund has traditionally been filled by the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax, but collections have dwindled as cars have become more fuel efficient and Americans drove less frequently during the most recent economic downtown. 

The gas tax brings in about $34 billion per year to the federal government's coffers. However the current transportation bill that is scheduled to expire in September includes more than $50 billion worth of spending on road and transit projects.

Many transportation advocates have pushed Congress to increase the gas tax or replace it with a more viable funding source to avoid a repeat of the current
shortfall.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director Bud Wright said either of the competing proposals to provide a one-time infusion of cash would be better than doing nothing to restore the viability of federal transportation funding.

"The crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund and our national transportation infrastructure is very real," Wright said in a statement. "It is good news that the administration and Congressional leadership in both houses are looking seriously at strategies to invest in transportation and maintain the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and the programs it supports."