Wednesday, February 26, 2014

President proposes infrastructure package

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President Obama on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, called for a four-year, $302 billion investment in U.S. infrastructure, primarily targeting repair and rehabilitation of existing assets.

A fact sheet released earlier in the day by the Obama Administration suggested that the plan would increase dedicated funding for transit more than funding for highways.

The President formally unveiled the plan in St. Paul, Minn.'s recently restored Union Depot, expected to host Amtrak's Empire Builder later this year and also a terminus for Metropolitan Council's 11-mile Green Line light rail transit (LRT), set to open June 14, 2014, connecting downtown St. Paul with Minneapolis.

The proposal must meet approval from the Republican-held House of Representatives, making its prospects uncertain, though House Republicans also seek to address transportation funding, as the nation's Highway Trust Fund verges on insolvency.

Prior to the President's announcement Wednesday, the White House released a statement saying, in part, "If Congress doesn't act to ensure critical transportation programs continue to be funded and do not expire later this year, more than 700,000 jobs will be put at risk."

In response to President Obama’s announcement, Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman issued the following statement:

“Passenger rail is indispensable to helping the United States meet national goals of competitiveness, job creation and economic growth. Having a predictable and dedicated federal funding source for passenger rail is the right policy for America. A multi-year planning and construction program for high-performing, high-capacity passenger rail will connect key regions and unleash our nation’s economic potential now trapped by clogged highways and airports.

“Nowhere is the connection between passenger rail and economic growth stronger than in the Northeast Corridor, where demand for rail service is at record levels, but dependent on century-old infrastructure. A world-class economy needs a world-class transportation system, and passenger rail is the solution that our global competitors have already figured out.

“It is entirely appropriate that a portion of any revenue generated from tax reform be dedicated for improving passenger rail. Just as a modern and efficient tax code is important to business competitiveness, so too, is a modern and efficient national passenger rail network.”