Last night, President Obama gave an impassioned speech to a joint session of Congress, outlining his $447 billion economic package to put Americans back to work and provide economic relief to businesses and families through comprehensive tax cuts and unemployment insurance benefits. While critical details of the plan have yet to be released, including the all important question of how to pay for it, the broad concepts are sound. The nation's transportation system will be affected in the following ways:
President Obama's plan, the American Jobs Act, includes an investment of approximately $50 billion in federal funds for transportation projects around the country. According to the fact sheets posted on the White House's website, the funds are intended for transportation infrastructure projects that modernize our nation's highway, public transit, intercity rail, and aviation systems. The President cited necessary upgrades to our air traffic control system, which a recent RPA report, Upgrading to World Class: The Future of the Regions Airports, recommended in order to expand capacity at the New York metropolitan region's heavily congested airports.
In order to fund major transit and rail transportation projects, the President's economic package also calls for investing about $5 billion to expand the U.S. DOT's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program and FHWA's Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) credit assistance program to help leverage federal resources. An additional $2 billion would be spent on improving our nation's intercity passenger rail service (presumably going towards another round of grants for the federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program).
The American Jobs Act would also establish a National Infrastructure Bank to help build a wide range of infrastructure projects of national and regional significance by leveraging private and public capital, and capitalize it with $10 billion in seed money. To speed the delivery of these infrastructure projects, and create jobs and achieve their benefits faster, the President would follow up on a Memorandum that was recently issued that set forth a plan to streamline time-consuming environmental review and permitting processes.
Download the Fact Sheet: American Jobs Act (PDF)
Download the Presidential Memorandum - Speeding Infrastructure Development through More Efficient and Effective Permitting and Environmental Review (PDF)