Last updated: 02:43 PM ET, Mon March 30 2015

DOT Sends Six-Year Transportation Bill to Congress

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | March 30, 2015

DOT Sends Six-Year Transportation Bill to Congress

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

After a year-long tour to more than 100 communities across the country, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has submitted a six-year, $478 billion spending bill to Congress.

The question is, how much of that will go to airport infrastructure?

The GROW AMERICA Act calls for increasing investment in surface transportation by 45 percent, and supporting millions of jobs repairing and modernizing roads, bridges, railroads and transit systems in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

“All over the country, I hear the same account: the need to repair and expand our surface transportation system has never been greater, and yet federal transportation funding has never been in such short supply,” Foxx said in a statement. “Our proposal provides a level of funding and also funding certainty that our partners need and deserve. This is an opportunity to break away from 10 years of flat funding, not to mention these past six years in which Congress has funded transportation by passing 32 short-term measures.”

According to a release, it sounds as if most of the focus is on ground transportation. A recent study by the department, beyond traffic, confirmed that America’s infrastructure is failing. Drivers spend more than 40 hours annually stuck in traffic. Sixty-five percent of the roads they drive on are in less than good condition; one out of four bridges they cross needs to be replaced; and public transit faces an $86 billion repair backlog. The report also revealed that, over the next 30 years, Americans will ask more of our transportation system than ever before. The United States’ population will grow by 70 million; freight traffic will increase by 45 percent.

The report noted that several states have had to put aside projects due to a lack of funding.

The talking points in the release say the bill includes measures to increase safety across all modes of transportation, including almost tripling the budget of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s automobile defects office; establishing an $18 billion freight program so American businesses can compete effectively in a global economy and grow; increasing connections so that more Americans have access to jobs and education, including by raising transit investment by 76 percent; putting in place a transparent and clear permitting process to speed up project delivery; increasing innovative financing by strengthening Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan programs, by making more Private Activity Bonds (PABS) available, and by nearly doubling funding for our TIGER grant program; and empowering local government by providing more funding to high-performing Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). 

“It is clear to me that transportation is still a bipartisan issue, and I am really encouraged to see members of both parties working to get something done,” Foxx said. “During these next two months, though, all of us who work in Washington need to be relentless in trying to get to ‘yes’ on a bill that is truly transformative and that brings the country together.”

Whether that includes funding for airports remains to be seen.

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