President Obama has signed into a law a five-year, $305 billion highway bill, just hours before the scheduled expiration of the nation’s road and transit spending.
The new law, paid for with gas tax revenue and a package of $70 billion in offsets from other areas of the federal budget, calls for spending approximately $205 billion on highways and $48 billion on transit projects over the next five years.
The measure is the first long-term national transportation spending package in a decade. It follows a string of temporary patches that began before Obama entered office. Congress has not passed a transportation funding bill that lasts longer than two years since 2005 and ending the pattern of short stopgap funding fixes has been a priority for both the Obama administration and Republican leaders in Congress this year.
“This bill is not perfect, but it is a commonsense compromise, and an important first step in the right direction,” Obama said in a statement. “We can put Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems … and give local and state governments and employers the certainty they need to invest and hire for the long term,” he continued.
The new law, dubbed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or the FAST Act, formally reauthorizes the collection of the 18.4 cents per gallon gas tax that is typically used to pay for transportation projects, and also includes $70 billion in “pay-fors” to close a $16 billion deficit in annual transportation funding that has developed as U.S. cars have become more fuel-efficient.
Obama said he would keep pushing Congress to come up with a more sustainable way to pay for transportation projects than the patchwork of funding mechanisms used in the measure he signed into law.
“As we applaud the kind of bipartisan compromise that was reached last night, we should also recognize that we still have work to do,” he said. “Congress should pass a bill like the GROW AMERICA Act I’ve proposed in the past, one that supports even more jobs and invests even more in our roads and highways than the bill passed last night so we can meet our country’s infrastructure needs,” Obama concluded.
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