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DOT Budget Includes Freight, Infrastructure

March 4, 2014

By Oliver Patton

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President Obama’s budget for the Department of Transportation calls for new performance measures and a $10 billion freight program as well as his four-year, $302 billion infrastructure program.

The DOT proposal is part of an overall 2015 budget that emphasizes middle-class tax cuts and closing of loopholes for wealthier taxpayers. It calls for $3.9 trillion in spending on receipts of $3.3 trillion, and a deficit of $564 billion.

The budget appears not likely to go anywhere in Congress. House Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it spends and taxes too much.

About half of the infrastructure program, $150 billion, would be paid for by a rewrite of the corporate tax code designed to close loopholes and reduce the overall corporate rate from 35%. This provision is similar in concept to the proposal by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, to raise $126.5 billion over eight years for the Highway Trust Fund.

The DOT budget includes reforms intended to modernize the permitting process for infrastructure projects. It would expand a system for tracking permits and reviews, and create an Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Center to take responsibility for implementing reforms.

Included is $4 billion for a new competitive surface transportation program intended to create incentives for states and local governments to go after ambitious performance improvements.

Other highlights:

  • The $10 billion freight program is intended to eliminate bottlenecks and improve freight efficiency.
  • New performance measures to focus funding on maintenance of existing infrastructure.
  • $1.25 billion per year for the TIGER competitive grant program (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery).
  • More funding for transit and passenger rail.
  • $14 billion in discretionary resources for air, maritime, rail safety and pipeline and hazmat transport. Included here is $40 million to support safe transport of crude oil by truck and rail.
  • About $1 billion to support the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

American Trucking Associations criticized the Obama budget because the highway funding proposal is just a one-time infusion.

“Today’s proposed budget misses the mark when it comes to the transportation needs of the U.S. economy,” said ATA President Bill Graves in a statement. “It provides no real funding solutions for the long-term health of our infrastructure.”

ATA contends that the best and quickest way to raise the money for highway investment is to raise the fuel tax, but there is no political will in Washington to do that.

Graves also objected to the budget’s support for railroads.

“This budget proposes to re-direct funds from road and bridge projects that would improve capacity and ease bottlenecks to underwrite projects for an industry that continually crows about how self-sufficient it is,” he said.

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