Momentum builds for US infra with new $302bn plan

President Obama said his budget proposal will include $302bn to fund transportation infra over the next four year after Transportation Secretary Foxx announced a new round of TIGER grants totaling $600m.

President Barack Obama will propose a plan to invest $302 billion in transportation infrastructure when he submits the 2015 budget to Congress next week, following up on the promise he made during the State of the Union address in January to create jobs while upgrading the country’s aging infrastructure.

“Today, I’m here to launch a new competition for 21st century infrastructure and the jobs that come with it, because any opportunity agenda begins with creating more good jobs,” he said in a speech in St. Paul, Minnesota where he travelled to unveil the new plan.

“And one of the fastest and best ways to create good jobs is by rebuilding America’s infrastructure – our roads, our bridges, our rails, our ports, our airports, our schools, our power grids,” he added.

Part of the funding for the $302 billion plan will come from simplifying the tax code but the President did not provide details other than to say changes would include closing wasteful tax loopholes and lowering tax rates for businesses that create jobs in the US.

He also underscored the importance of infrastructure in terms of competitiveness.

“As a percentage of GDP, countries like China, Germany, they’re spending about twice what we’re spending in order to build infrastructure – because they know that if they have the fastest trains on the planet or the highest-rated airports or the busiest, most efficient ports – that businesses will go there,” he said.

“Rebuilding our infrastructure is vital to business,” he said, adding that the issue is even more urgent given the upcoming expiration in September of the current surface transportation re-authorisation bill – Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) – and the possibility of the Highway Trust Fund running out as early as August.

President Obama was accompanied by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx who announced that $600 million would be made available in the new, sixth round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant programme.

The US Department of Transportation (US DOT) will prioritise applications for capital projects that better connect people to jobs, training and other opportunities and promote neighbourhood redevelopment, the agency said in a statement.

“TIGER investments answer the President’s challenge to expand opportunity through a strong transportation system that connects Americans with a better way of life,” Foxx said.

Launched in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the programme has since provided more than $3.6 billion to 270 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

In 2013, the fifth TIGER round made $474 million available that supported $1.8 billion in overall project investments.

According to US DOT, the TIGER programme “offers one of the only federal funding possibilities for large, game-changing multimodal projects.”

It was also through the first round, that Union Depot in St. Paul, where the announcements were made, received $35 million to renovate the facility and restore tracks.

“Combined with roughly $480 million in federal funding for the Central Corridor light rail transit line, St. Paul’s Union Depot is proof of the impact that transportation investment can make, leading to job creation, downtown revitalization and economic growth,” US DOT said in its statement.

Official White House photos by Pete Souza.