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How would you prioritize the transportation budget?

May 15, 2014

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

President Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union address, “In today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.”

The president proposed a $302 billion package that would be used to update the nation’s ground transportation systems over the next four years, from highways to trains, bus lines to HOV lanes. He proposed a package called GROW AMERICA that has made its way to Congress.

Transportation funding is not always the most dynamic aspect of the federal government, but it is important. Every road you drive or walk on or every train or bus that you ride is affected by the federal government.

And right now, the infrastructure in the U.S. is getting old, real old. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the national infrastructure a D+ grade for 2014. Civil engineers design and inspect roads and bridges. The low grade is due to many factors, including:
  • Nine out of ten bridges in the U.S. are considered “structurally deficient” meaning that they need a major overhaul.
  • 45 percent of Americans do not have access to any type of public transit.
  • 42 percent of the nation’s urban roadways experience unnecessary congestion, costing the country billions in wasted time and fuel dollars. 
Obama’s plan proposed bigger budgets for all the ground transportation agencies, with the goal of improving the nation’s transportation infrastructure across the board. Here’s a breakdown of the 2015 proposed budgets for those agencies: 
  • Federal Highway Administration – $48.6 billion to maintain and improve the safety, condition and performance of the national highway system, including repairs to bridges and roads deemed deficient.
  • Federal Transit Administration – $17.4 billion to fund new public transportation systems, extend existing systems, and update the nation’s aging transit infrastructure.
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – $669 million to implement already federally approved safety plans aimed at improving the safety of the country’s Motor Carrier (big-rig) system, focusing on training, increasing inspections at borders, and reducing the number of truck-related fatalities.
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – $851 million to improve the infrastructure of the nation’s roads, including improvements to bicycle and pedestrian paths and lanes.
  • Federal Railroad Administration – $4.9 billion to build more rail lines, improve existing lines, and increase safety for passengers, freight and communities that are on rail lines.
  • Office of the Secretary – $73.6 billion to oversee the agencies, improving project turnaround and reducing inefficiency and wasteful spending.
What do you think?

If you were in charge, how would you spend the $302 billion on infrastructure? Which agency do you think affects the most people? Which ones should get more funding? Why? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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