WASHINGTON—Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent a $302 billion transportation funding package, the “Grow America Act,” on April 29 to mixed reviews from stakeholders.
According to the Department of Transportation, the four-year reauthorization among other things will provide critical funds for road and bridge repair, aid the movement of freight across all modes of transportation and provide innovative modes of infrastructure financing.
The bill will provide $10 billion over four years for targeted investments in the transportation system that will improve the movement of freight, the agency said. It also will dedicate $150 billion in one-time transitional revenue from business tax reform to pay for transportation improvements, it said.
To ensure funding of transportation projects, the bill will provide $4 billion under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) that could support as much as $40 billion in loans, DOT said. It also makes it easier for smaller transportation projects to use TIFIA for funding, it said.
The Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) praised the Grow America Act, while stopping short of endorsing it completely.
“DOT's bill certainly helps advance the discussion about how to address our nation's transportation infrastructure crisis,” said LIUNA General President Terry O'Sullivan. “For too long, Congress' duct-tape approach has made our roads and bridges unsafe, destabilized the construction industry and slowed our economy.”
O'Sullivan urged DOT and Congress to embrace an increase in the gasoline tax, which he called “the most testing and logical way of meeting our critical investment needs.” He quoted a Mineta Transportation Institute survey as showing that 67 percent of Americans would support a gas tax increase that went to fixing potholes, roads and bridges.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association praised the Grow America Act. ARTBA President and CEO Pete Ruane said the bill “recognizes the need for the significant boost in transportation infrastructure investment necessary to grow the economy, create jobs and increase the nation's productivity and international competitiveness.”
Ruane said he hoped the administration and Congress would use the bill as a starting point for long-term funding solutions for the Highway Trust Fund, which is in danger of running out of money this summer.
However, the American Trucking Associations said it was disappointed in the bill, particularly its funding mechanisms.
“Any proposal that moves away from a user fee for funding transportation systems is not going to be acceptable to the American trucking industry, period,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.
“It is clear that this administration is aiming to hijack the Highway Trust Fund and convert it into a fund to finance a myriad of projects that do not pay user fees into the fund,” Graves said. The bill does not acknowledge the overriding importance of trucking as the nation's mover of freight, he said.