President Donald Trump today (Jan. 31) signed an executive order, “Strengthening Buy American Preferences for Infrastructure Projects,” encouraging the use of U.S.-made materials when undertaking infrastructure projects that get federal funding. The goal is to boost the purchase of domestic products, such as aluminum, steel, iron and concrete in federally funded projects to repair and improve sewers, roads and other vital parts of the country’s network. The president’s order falls short of a mandate and does not set required levels to be purchased or create an enforcement mechanism. A previous executive order, signed April 17, 2017, took a similar route, and this order signed Jan. 31 is intended to fill “gaps,” according to a presidential economic adviser. Read more on The Hill website.
WASHINGTON – Over the past year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has visited more than 100 communities and heard one common story – shared by all – about crumbling infrastructure and dwindling resources to fix it with. Secretary Foxx March 30 sent to Congress his solution to this problem: a long-term transportation bill that provides funding growth and certainty so that state and local governments can get back in the business of building things again.
The GROW AMERICA Act reflects President Obama’s vision for a six-year, $478 billion transportation reauthorization bill that invests in modernizing America’s infrastructure. As lawmakers try to fund transportation beyond May 31, GROW AMERICA provides members of the House of Representatives and Senate with the option of 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,” Secretary Foxx said. “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.”
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.
But rather than doing more, funding uncertainty has forced many states to do less instead. Tennessee, Arkansas, Delaware, and Wyoming have delayed more than a billion dollars in projects. Georgia, alone, has set aside $715 million in projects, while Mississippi has shifted its transportation dollars only to smaller maintenance efforts. As it stands, total investment in our roads, bridges, and transit systems is falling well below the level that is needed to keep them in good condition.
The GROW AMERICA Act will chart a new course. For one, it will increase investment in all forms of transportation, which will restore the ability of states and local governments to plan for both needed repairs and efforts that increase capacity to meet future demand. Additionally, the proposal ensures that taxpayer dollars are used more effectively and efficiently, and brings federal transportation policy into the 21st century. It will:
Increase safety across all modes of transportation, including by almost tripling the budget of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s automobile defects office;
Establish an $18 billion freight program so American businesses can compete effectively in a global economy and grow;
Increase connections so that more Americans have access to jobs and education, including by raising transit investment by 76 percent;
Put in place a transparent and clear permitting process to speed up project delivery;
Increase 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
Empower 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,” Secretary 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. And frankly, governors and state officials as well as mayors and local officials all over the country need to continue being relentless, too, by continuing to raise their voices in support of a transportation bill that meets both their immediate and long-term needs.”
For state fact sheets, and to learn how much more transportation funding your state will have if Congress passes the GROW AMERICA Act, go to www.dot.gov/growamerica.