Foxx: 'Congress has got to do something' about transport funding

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxGeorgia Power says electricity at Atlanta airport will likely be restored by midnight Ex-Obama transportation chief on Atlanta airport power outage: 'Total and abject failure' To address America's crumbling infrastructure, follow Britain's lead MORE said Thursday that "Congress has got to something" to fix the nation's infrastructure this year.

"I'm encouraged by some of the bipartisan signals we're hearing from Washington that this is one of the things people feel like they can agree on. But ... the proof is in the pudding. Congress has got to do something," he said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show.

Foxx was appearing a day after he took lawmakers to task for passing only a series of short-term highway funding packages in recent years.

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"Last year we sent Congress a comprehensive multiyear proposal, the GROW AMERICA Act, which included 350 pages of precise policy prescriptions and substantial funding growth, all focused on the future," he said during a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about transportation funding issues on Wednesday. 

"What America received in response was a ten-month extension with flat funding, which while averting a catastrophe falls short of meeting the countries needs," Foxx continued. "It was not the first short-term measure, or patch, that has been passed. It was by my count, the 32nd in the last six years. And as a former mayor, I can tell you these short-term measures are doing to America what the state [Department of Transportation] says they're doing in Tennessee, literally killing their will to build."

The Transportation chief said Thursday that he needed to get the message across to lawmakers about how big the transportation funding problem is.

"We are at a crisis point," he said. "We've had bridge collapses. Remember the bridge in Minnesota?"

Lawmakers have introduced a series of bills this week to boost the nation's transportation spending, and the idea of increasing the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax to help pay for construction projects has been discussed.

The gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993, has struggled to keep pace with infrastructure expenses in recent years as cars have become more fuel efficient.

The tax at the pump, which predates the highway system by about 20 years, brings in about $34 billion per year. The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on road and transit projects, and transportation advocates have maintained that the larger figure is only enough to maintain the current state of U.S. infrastructure.

Foxx said in the interview on Thursday that he thought Congress could find another way to finance new transportation projects besides asking drivers to pay more at the pump, although he did not completely rule out a gas tax hike.

"We believe that you can do it through business tax reform," he said. "We've put a proposal out there that would substantially increase money and infrastructure doing that, bringing on tax corporate earnings from overseas. ... But we've also said we'll listen to what Congress coalesces behind."