Although it’s likely to land with a solid thud on Capitol Hill — given that there are just two months left until current surface-transportation legislation expires — the U.S. Department of Transportation officially announced its $478-billion, six-year transportation reauthorization proposal.

Funding for this year’s version of the GROW America Act would in part come from revenue gained from a one-time tax on overseas corporate profits. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx sent the propsal to Congress on March 30.

The proposal would allocate $317 billion in funding for federal highway programs, which would equate to an increase of 29% over fiscal year 2015 levels. The proposal would also virtually triple NHTSA's funding, in part to increase that agency's ability to deal with potentially dangerous vehicle recalls.

The Administration’s proposal is funded by supplementing current revenues from the Highway Trust Fund in combination with a 14% transition tax on the up to $2 trillion of untaxed foreign earnings that U.S. companies have accumulated overseas, according to DOT. If enacted, the funding would prevent Highway Trust Fund insolvency for six years.

The bill also calls for $18 billion for a “new multimodal freight grant program to fund innovative rail, highway, and port projects that will improve the efficient movement of goods across the country,” said DOT. “The GROW AMERICA Act will also give shippers and transportation providers a real seat at the table for making investment decisions and incentivizes States to collaborate and establish long term freight strategic plans.”

Other key elements of GROW America include:

  • Provide $7.5 billion over six years, an increase of over 100 percent, for the TIGER competitive grant program and $6 billion “embedded “in the highway and transit requests for a competitive grant program called Fixing and Accelerating Surface Transportation (FAST). Modeled after the Department of Education’s Race to the Top program, FAST will award States, Tribes, and Metropolitan Planning Organizations that adopt “bold, innovative strategies and best practices in transportation that will have long-term impact on all projects across the transportation programs.”
  • Improve project delivery and the Federal permitting and regulatory review process by “building on recent efforts to expedite project approval timelines while delivering better outcomes for communities and the environment.”
  • Strengthen “performance incentives to maintain safety and conditions of good repair, and expand research and technology activities in order to improve the productivity of our transportation systems, thereby increasing taxpayer return on investment.”
  • Provide $6 billion to attract private investment in transportation infrastructure: “The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program leverages Federal dollars by facilitating private participation in transportation projects and encouraging innovative financing mechanisms that help advance projects more quickly. The GROW AMERICA Act calls for $6 billion in funding over six years, which is estimated to support $60 billion in loans.”

Rep. John K. Delaney (D-MD), whose Infrastructure 2.0 Act that also features funding via repatriation was filed in January with bipartisan support, said today that he and the co-sponsors of his bill were “pleased that the President adopted our infrastructure-repatriation framework in his budget and we are even more pleased today to see it animated in the DOT’s Grow America plan.

“With time running out on the Highway Trust Fund, pro-growth international tax reform is the funding solution we need,” he continued. “Rebuilding America’s infrastructure should be our top economic priority. New infrastructure projects will create good-paying middle-class jobs, make our businesses more competitive and improve public safety. Republicans and Democrats, Congress and the White House, should work together to get this done.”

Also weighing in on the GROW America Act today was Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) who said that the “proposal builds on the foundation laid out in last year’s GROW America Act that sought to get taxpayers the greatest return for their investments in transportation projects. It is my sincere hope that this Congress will do more with this proposal than last year when we simply kicked the can down the road for another short-term patch for the 12th time in five years.”

He also stressed the importance of the bill’s national multi-modal system, stating that it would “enable more transformative transportation projects that will make the biggest difference in improving our global competitiveness and mobility in communities across the country. “ 

While Carper also endorsed the GROW America’s repatriation funding mechanism—calling it “a concrete idea for paying for this comprehensive bill”-- he stated that “I want to be clear that one-time revenues do not address the long-term structural problems with the Highway Trust Fund.

“I plan to keep working with my colleagues in Congress to find a bipartisan agreement on a sustainable solution to paying for these infrastructure investments that an overwhelming majority of us believe are critical to our country’s future,” he added.

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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