US President Obama has proposed a new transport plan that would see $50bn (£33bn) spent rebuilding roads, railways and airport runways.
White House officials said the transportation plan’s initial £33bn would be the beginning of a six year programme of transportation improvements, but they did not give an overall figure.
In the US, federal transport spending is formalised in a transportation bill, signed off by the Congress, the Senate and then the White House every four to six years. Without a bill, it is illegal to spend federal funds. The last bill authorised £185bn of spending and ran until September last year. Since then transport planning has been in limbo, with a series of short-term extensions to the old legislation.
The plan is unlikely to become law this year in the face of stiff Republican opposition.
The proposal has a longer range focus than last year’s economic stimulus bill, which was more targeted on immediate job creation. It injected £4bn into the roads sector, but all but £390M of that is now spent or accounted for on live projects.
Officials said the £33bn would be the beginning of a six year programme of transportation improvements.
Obama’s plan calls for rebuilding 241,400km of roads; building and maintaining 6,400km of rail lines and 240km of airport runways, and installing a new air navigation system to reduce travel times and delays. It would also see the creation of an Infrastructure Bank to “leverage federal dollars and focus on investments of national and regional significance that often fall through the cracks in the current siloed transportation programmes”.
Republican leaders instantly assailed Obama’s proposal as an ineffective one that would simply raise already excessive federal spending.
Many congressional Democrats are also likely to be reluctant to boost expenditures and increase federal deficits just weeks before elections that will determine control of Congress.
Road builders will see the plans as not going far enough. Last month the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, which represents 5,000 consultants, contractors and suppliers, called for a £290bn to £324bn transport plan, paid for by an increase in fuel duty. US transportation secretary Ray LaHood is opposed to such a move.