ST. PAUL, Minn., Feb. 26 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama called for a four-year, $302 billion transportation reauthorization proposal Wednesday during a stop at a transit hub in St. Paul, Minn.
Touting the transportation spending package and the next round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant competition, Obama said the nation has "more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare."
"Everybody knows -- and nobody knows better than Minnesotans -- when we go through a winter like this, roads are wrecked," Obama said at the historic Union Depot, which is finding new life as a multi-modal transportation center after being under-utilized for years.
He said he would be sending to Congress next week a budget "that funds [the] rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in a more responsible way."
"Roads and bridges should not be a partisan issue," Obama said.
Obama proposed a four-year reauthorization of surface transportation programs that are to expire Sept. 30.
In his budget blueprint for fiscal year 2015 to be unveiled next week, Obama will include a proposal to dedicate $150 billion in one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform to address the funding crisis facing surface transportation programs and increase infrastructure investment, the White House said in a fact sheet. This $150 billion is sufficient not only to fill the current funding gap in the Highway Trust Fund, but also increase surface transportation investment beyond current projected levels by nearly $90 billion over the next four years.
Obama said the Transportation Department is making available $600 million in TIGER grants to fund transportation projects. The new round of competitive grants will place an emphasis on "transformative" projects that will have "significant impact on the nation or a region," expand job access and increase economic opportunities, or catalyze economic development, the White House said.
The Union Depot, the spot picked by the president for his transportation announcement, was renovated through the TIGER competition and is on the cusp of being a transit hub handling local and interstate buses, metropolitan light rail, taxis, bicycles and Amtrak passenger trains.
Since its inclusion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Obama signed in 2009, the TIGER grant program has awarded $3.5 billion to 270 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Obama also warned that if Congress doesn't pass a transportation bill by the end of the summer, "we could see transportation projects stop in their tracks."
"This is one of Congress' major responsibilities -- helping states and cities fund new infrastructure projects," he told the crowd of about 1,300.
Obama reiterated his State of the Union pledge to take action on his own if Congress would not.
"Whenever I can partner with states, cities or business leaders, or act on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I will."
During the media briefing aboard Air Force One while traveling to St. Paul, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the president's plan for funding transportation projects would be "innovative, job-creating and transformative for the communities where they occur" and would "do all kinds of great things for this country's highway, rail and transit systems.