The Obama Administration has put forward an opening bid in what are sure to be contentious 2014 budget negotiations, issuing a solidly progressive transportation budget that calls for increased overall spending and continued investment in passenger rail.
The $76 billion transportation budget would represent a 5.5 percent, or $4 billion, spending increase over 2012 levels.
In addition, the president repeated his call for $50 billion in stimulus-style funding in 2014. Of this one-time funding infusion, $40 billion would be reserved for “fix-it-first” projects aimed at bringing the nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems into a state of good repair. The other $10 billion would be offered on a competitive basis to “innovative” projects, through programs like TIGER.
The $50 billion infrastructure-spending stimulus is a proposal we’ve seen Obama float several times in the last few years. In the 2014 budget proposal it is again packaged as a jobs program.
“These investments would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the first few years and in industries suffering from protracted unemployment,” the document says.
The administration’s budget also demonstrates that the president has not abandoned his high-speed rail ambitions. The budget proposes $40 billion for passenger rail programs over five years, aimed at making rail more widely accessible and convenient. It’s essentially his outline for a passenger rail (PRIIA) reauthorization. He even stuck to his goal of providing 80 percent of Americans with rail access, though years of funding setbacks have tempered his ambitions some — he now pledges that 80 percent of the population will have “convenient access to a passenger rail system, featuring high-speed service” — not that they’ll all have high-speed rail service.