Foxx introduces transportation bill

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled the Grow America Act, a bill based on President Obama’s proposed $302bn surface transportation reauthorisation.

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has sent the Grow America Act to Congress for consideration, delivering on his promise to make passing a surface transportation re-authorisation bill before the current law expires in September and the Highway Trust Fund runs out in August a priority, according to a statement issued by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT).

The bill is based on the proposal put forward by President Barack Obama in late February to invest $302 billion – an approximate 37 percent increase over the last transportation re-authorisation law – in the country’s transportation network over a four-year period. Half of those funds will come from “pro-growth business tax reform,” according to the USDOT website.

“I visited eight states and 13 cities as part of my Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour this month [April] and everywhere I went, I heard the same thing – people want more transportation options and better roads and bridges to get them where they need to go,” Foxx said. During his tour, Foxx met with business leaders, stakeholders and community members to discuss projects that are needed.

“Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable – and unaffordable,” he noted.

The bill aims to help upgrade the country’s aging transportation system by investing in highways and bridges, creating more efficient project delivery, promoting innovative financing, and investing in the US freight system.

Over the four-year period, the Grow America Act, if enacted, would allocate:
– $199 billion to the federal aid highway programme – which is $9 billion more per year than under current law;
– $92.1 billion to the National Highway Performance Programme to repair and reduce traffic congestion on the interstate highway system;
– $13.4 billion to the Fix-it-First Initiative, a portion of which will be used to improve road conditions on the interstate and structurally-deficient interstate bridges;
– $10.1 billion to the Highway Safety Improvement Programme; and
– $72 billion to public transit – a 70 percent increase in transit funding under the current law, MAP-21 [Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act].

In addition to the funds the government expects to generate through tax reform, the bill is also intended to promote innovative financing by expanding the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) programme, strengthening the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing programme; raising the $15 billion cap on private activity bonds (PABs) to $19 billion; and allocating $5 billion to the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant programme.

The Grow America Act “will also strengthen DOT’s ability to partner with state, local and private partners to invest in nationally- and regionally-significant transportation projects,” USDOT said on its website.

Other provisions included in the draft legislation include the establishment of an inter-agency infrastructure permitting improvement centre; implementing concurrent rather than sequential reviews; improving transparency and accountability; and implementing best practices – all with the aim of improving project delivery.

Passage of the bill would also lead to the creation of millions of jobs and improvement of the country’s long-term competitiveness, USDOT noted in the statement.