Thursday, February 21, 2013

Obama renews call for infrastructure investment

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President Obama resumed a push for infrastructure investment first outlined in his State of the Union speech. The plan outlines three main points to bring the nation's infrastructure into a state-of-good-repair and create jobs "that cannot be outsourced."

The first point of the plan is taking on a "fix it first" policy that calls for $50 billion in frontloaded transportation infrastructure investment, with $40 billion targeted toward reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance on highways, bridges, transit systems and airports nationwide.

The second point, "Rebuild America Partnership," is aimed at attracting private investment in order to build needed infrastructure by pairing federal, state and local governments with businesses and other private capital. This part of the plan renews calls for a national infrastructure bank, which would leverage private and public capital to support projects of national and regional significance; introduces America Fast Forward bonds, which the plans says would attract new sources of capital for infrastructure investment; implements the expanded TIFIA loan program.

The third point of the plan aims to cut infrastructure project timelines in half and modernize agency permitting and review regulations, procedures and policies.

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) released the following statement in response to the release of more information on the President's infrastructure plan:

"Our Nation has significant long-term infrastructure needs that must be addressed and responsibly paid for to improve our economic competitiveness, efficiency and quality of life. I welcome the President's interest in improving our infrastructure. However, the President's plan appears to be only a short-term proposal for long-term challenges.

"I'm encouraged by the President's comments about the need to reduce red tape and streamline project delivery, including working to implement provisions from MAP-21 that can cut the time to build a highway project in half. We need to find additional opportunities to move projects ahead faster in all modes of transportation to save time and money. It can take the Army Corps of Engineers 17 years to complete a major port terminal project that takes the private sector only seven years. I hope the President will be willing to work with Congress on this and other long-term solutions to our substantial infrastructure needs."

The White House released a statement saying the plan will build on progress made in the past four years and cites that during this time frame, the U.S. Department of Transportation has "built or improved more than 6,000 miles of rail, 40 rail stations and purchased 260 passenger rail cars and 105 locomotives. In addition, the Obama Administration has made an unprecedented commitment to strengthen public transportation across the United States, investing in more than 350 miles of new rail and bus rapid transit and helping to revitalize the American manufacturing industry by investing in 45,621 buses and 5,545 rail cars."

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