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House Democrats pitch $760B plan to fix 'neglected' U.S. infrastructure

By
Don Jacobson
Democrats proposed the plan on Wednesday after President Donald Trump's $2 trillion infrastructure plan stalled last year. File Photo by Patrick Timmons/UPI
Democrats proposed the plan on Wednesday after President Donald Trump's $2 trillion infrastructure plan stalled last year. File Photo by Patrick Timmons/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- House Democrats on Wednesday proposed a major infrastructure investment plan they say will spend $760 billion over five years to address a backlog of some of the United States' most urgent needs.

The three-page outline was introduced by House transportation committee chairman Peter DeFazio and Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Richard Neal of Massachusetts, who said the package would "bolster the federal role in order to help communities around the country undertake transformative projects that are smarter, safer and made to last."

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"Due to decades of underfunding and neglect, America's infrastructure system is falling apart and we're falling behind our global competitors," said Neal, chairman of the ways and means committee. "The deficiencies of our roads, bridges, transit, water systems, broadband and electrical grids hold our nation's economy back."

The Highway Trust Fund, which provides funding for infrastructure repairs and maintenance, is low due to lower federal gasoline and diesel fuel tax revenues. Earlier proposals to raise both taxes, for the first time since 1993, and replenish the fund have stalled.

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The centerpiece of the plan commits $329 billion for highway, railroad and transportation repairs and maintenance, which would prioritize fixing broken and outdated existing infrastructure -- including 47,000 U.S. bridges that are now considered structurally deficient.

Other key aspects call for $105 billion for investment in mass transit to provide new routes and more reliable service; $55 billion in rail investments to expand and upgrade Amtrak's passenger network; and $50 billion to replace aging and deficient wastewater treatment infrastructure.

The proposal is designed to be a step away from traditional highway focus in funding bills and folds into larger Democratic legislative goals, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday.

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"This is just one part of what we will be doing when we have our legislative week for infrastructure," she said. "We will also have a special focus on housing, especially focused on education, school construction, all of it very important."

President Donald Trump proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan last year, but it fell apart over disagreements on how to pay for it and political struggles that arose from the House impeachment investigation. Democratic leaders also haven't specified how their new plan will be funded.

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