President Obama Urges Congress to Extend Surface Transport Bill

If an extension fails to pass, the absence of a surface transportation bill would see the loss of one million construction and related jobs, President Obama warns. Photo via the Miller Center.

Today, President Obama urged Congress to pass a clean extension of the nation’s surface transportation bill. If not extended, the bill will expire on September 30, taking with it funding for mass transit systems, as well as shutting down bridge repair and highway construction projects. The legislation also provides funding for thousands of transportation projects that are currently under construction and authorizes the federal 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood explains that the expiration of the transportation bill would cause the loss of 1 million construction and related jobs. Even a 10-day delay of the extension can cost the nation $1 billion in highway funding and furlough 4,000 professionals that work in the Department of Transportation.

Currently, the House and the Senate have differing opinions on transportation funding measures. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) offered a $109 billion, two-year extension of the legislation. John Mica (R-Flo.), chairman of the House transportation committee, proposed a $230 billion, 6-year extension, which would cut 35 percent of existing transportation money. Though both groups may have opposing views on the amount and extension of the bill, President Obama urged Congress to come to a consensus, expressing that “It’s inexcusable to cut off necessary investments at a time when so many of our highways are chocked with congestion, when so many of our bridges are in need of repair, when so many commuters depend on reliable transit and when travel and shipping delays cost businesses billions of dollars every single year.”

The President also spoke to the need for private funding in transportation projects, in addition to federal funding, and discussed the reforms he would like to add to future transport legislation. “I’m also proposing that we reform the way transportation money is invested to eliminate waste, to give states more control over the projects that are right for them and to make sure that we are getting better results for the money that we spend,” explained the President.  “We need to stop funding projects based on whose districts they are in, and start funding them based on how much good they are going to be doing for the American people.”

Read the transcript from the press conference here.

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