AASHTO Journal, 12 April 2013
Following both the House and Senate’s release of their budgets, President Obama released his own fiscal year 2014 budget, which includes $76.6 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation and an additional $50 billion investment in transportation infrastructure.
Obama’s proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation would be a $4 billion (or 5.5 percent) increase from 2012 levels. Additionally, Obama’s budget calls for investing $50 billion in a “Fix-It-First” plan to fix and modernize the nation’s current infrastructure system (roads, bridges, transit systems, railways, border crossings, and airport runways) and also support new “critical” infrastructure projects.
Obama’s budget would pay for the new investments with anticipated savings from cutbacks in war expenses.
The “Fix-it-First” plan includes $40 billion to improve existing infrastructure: $27 billion for highway repair (which includes $2 billion set aside for border crossing infrastructure only), $3 billion for rail capital projects, $2 billion for the repair and upgrade of Amtrak’s infrastructure, $2 billion for airport capital grants, $6 billion to update existing rail fixed-guideway systems and bus facilities, and $1 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen program.
In addition, Obama’s budget calls for $4 billion for credit assistance and grants for intermodal transportation projects (very similar to the TIGER grant program), $2 billion for a transportation leadership award program to encourage state transportation departments to implement innovative strategies in transportation, and $3 billion for a rail service improvement program to assist intercity passenger rail.
“We remain supportive of proposals like President Obama’s that would increase investment in transportation infrastructure, especially those that address the nation’s growing backlog of preservation and maintenance needs,” said AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright. “However, AASHTO and its member states remain convinced that the principal challenge will be to identify a long-term, sustainable revenue source for transportation investments. We look forward to the opportunity to work with the Administration and Congress on building and maintaining a robust and reliable transportation system that supports our national economy and quality of life.”
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) also addressed the issue of sustainable funding in his reaction to the President’s budget.
“I welcome the President’s interest in addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs. These issues are critical to the country’s economic growth and competitiveness in the global marketplace,” Shuster said in a statement. “One of the most essential questions in this debate is how do we finance infrastructure maintenance and improvements without adding to our debt? We can’t just keep adding to our tab and expect future generations to foot the bill.”
The budget released by the White House also supports the current surface transportation bill, MAP-21, by providing the $50.1 billion in obligation limitations for its programs.