President Obama proposes spending $302 billion on transportation

During a trip to Minnesota, President Obama proposed spending $302 billion on transportation over the next four years, especially constructing transit systems to resist harsh weather. (whitehouse.gov)

President Obama Wednesday proposed spending $302 billion on transportation over the next four years, taking the lead in addressing a potential crisis in funding for roads, bridges and public transit.

Obama, speaking on a trip to Minnesota, said that unless Congress acts to bolster the near-bankrupt federal Highway Trust Fund, 700,000 jobs will be put in jeopardy.

The current two-year highway bill is set to expire Nov. 1, and the gas-tax reliant trust fund is expected to run short of funds before then.

States rely on Washington for about half of their transportation funding.

The president’s plan relies for funding on a one-time $150 billion boost from corporate tax reform, a proposal he had floated before.

“There are a lot of (funding proposals) already on the table, and that’s another one,” said a former top transportation staff member in the House, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his current job does not allow public comment. “It’s good that so many options are being discussed.”

In Washington, on Wednesday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said federal transportation funding was in crisis.

“This is do or die,” Boxer said. “Either we’re going to have a federal role in transportation or we’re not, and it’s going to devolve to the states.”

The four-year Obama proposal would increase funding slightly from current levels.

“It’s the pay for that is a sticky, sticky wicket,” Boxer said.

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Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.

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