Transportation chief touts federal road-funding bill

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Tuesday discussed the future of transportation and called for support for a $478 billion, six-year bill unveiled Monday by the Obama administration that would give states more funding for transportation infrastructure repairs.

In a speech Tuesday at the Detroit Economic Club — and in remarks later in the day at a roundtable with Gov. Rick Snyder and others — Foxx said population growth, climate change and rapid advances in technology all mean tomorrow's roads and bridges will look drastically different than today's.

"We're going to have to think about transportation systems differently," he said.

Foxx discussed "Beyond Traffic," a report recently issued by the Department of Transportation that serves as a blueprint for the future of transportation. It predicts population growth and a jump in the amount of goods being moved around the country means the already strained U.S. infrastructure will be in greater need of repair.

The bill unveiled Monday aims to help fund some of those repairs.

Under the Obama administration's plan, Michigan would see an additional $72 million for mass transit next year — $204 million — over the current $132 million. The Obama administration would pay for the fixes through the proceeds of corporate tax reform.

"I think Michigan is a poster child for failure of investment," U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence said in the afternoon roundtable. "We're at risk of becoming a Third World country in our infrastructure."

The $478 billion proposal also calls for getting unrepaired recalled vehicles off the roads faster and requiring all new-car dealers to check for uncompleted recalls when owners take vehicles in for service.

Over the last six years, Congress has not been able to reach agreement on a long-term highway funding bill and instead passed a series of 32 short-term extensions — adding $70 billion for the highway trust fund.

"I think it's more expensive for us not to figure it out," he said.

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David Shepardson contributed.