The President Announces New Money for Transportation
The White House has announced a new round of $600 million in funding for transformative transportation infrastructure projects, and a four-year proposal to invest $302 billion in the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure -- about half of which would come from a business tax reform.
On Feb. 26, President Barack Obama spoke at the Union Depot train station in Saint Paul, Minn., where he laid out the details.
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program has already placed $3.5 billion into 270 projects over several rounds of funding since being launched in 2009. This new round of funding will allow some applicants to build new projects, with a potential $35 million going toward economic development plans for communities, a new development in the program. This funding can be used “to support the planning of innovative transportation solutions, as well as regional transportation planning, freight and port planning, housing and land use development, and resiliency efforts that improve efficiency and sustainable community development,” according to a White House press release.
The President’s four-year plan to invest in the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure includes a one-time $150 billion investment, which would come from a “pro-growth” business tax reform that has not yet been detailed. This would fill the existing $63 billion gap in the Highway Trust Fund, as well as increase surface transportation investments above current projected levels by about $90 billion over the next four years, according to WhiteHouse.gov.
“The President is also looking forward to working with Congress on bipartisan ideas to attract more private investment, such as a national infrastructure bank,” according to the release.
Of the $302 billion investment, $199 billion would go to the nation’s highway system, increasing the annual amount of highway funding by 22 percent annually. About $7 billion would go toward road safety programs.
About $72 billion would go toward investments in existing and new transit systems, increasing the average amount of transit spending by about 70 percent annually.
Rail programs would be dedicated $19 billion in funding under the proposal.
Another $9 billion would go toward programs to spur innovation in local communities.
The President also highlighted how this funding will create new jobs and grow the economy in states and localities. More than $2.6 billion is going toward programs that “create ladders of opportunity,” according to the press release.
Another $10 billion would go toward a new freight program, while about $4 billion would go toward subsidies to attract private investment in transportation infrastructure projects.
Allocation of transportation funding in the president’s four-year proposal aside, the TIGER program has faced scrutiny from many in the transportation world. In the most recent round of TIGER funding, about 60 percent of the $474 million went to transit, rail and freight projects. The top five highest funded projects in the last round of funding went to cities. And most projects overall went to cities, counties or ports, while very few state projects were funded.
Also, with each round of TIGER funding, fewer applications for funding are submitted. In 2010, the program received 1,700 applications requesting a total of $54 billion in funding, while TIGER 2013 received just 585 applications for a total of $9 billion in funding. The program has been criticized for being overly politicized, focusing too much on local transportation projects, and for having a lack of transparency in the selection process.