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Obama Administration Outlines 30-Year Transportation Plan

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaks at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington on Jan. 12. Photo credit: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

By Ashley Halsey III for Washington Post

With the population explosion in the South and West expected to continue and aging infrastructure requiring a massive overhaul elsewhere, the Obama administration on Jan. 12 began to map out a 30-year framework to meet those needs.

“Our point is to say that if we don’t [address] these things, is there a cost? The answer is yes,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in an interview Friday. “We keep thinking the transportation system is like a merry-go-round: You put a quarter in it and it goes around again. Well, it’s not.”

Foxx promised a comprehensive review of the demand for new or replacement systems a year ago in an address to the Transportation Research Board, a national organization of transportation experts. He returned to the group Monday to roll out conclusions expected in a report later this year.

It is a system under stress, with a future undermined by indecision over funding on Capitol Hill. In moving beyond the financial challenges Congress must address this year, Foxx said he hopes to shift the focus of the discussion to what lies on the horizon.

He said the report, which will be followed by a formal comment period, is intended as the beginning of a conversation about the future, rather than the conclusive definition of a path forward.

The report being drafted by the Transportation Department draws in part on data compiled in recent years by such groups as the Miller Center at the University of Virginia and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

An ASCE report two years ago concluded that it would take a $3.6T investment by 2020 to meet infrastructure needs, about $1.6T short of current spending. The Miller Center said maintaining infrastructure at current levels required additional spending of $134B to $194B each year through 2035.

Foxx acknowledged that coming up with a new source of funding for the depleted federal Highway Trust Fund is critical but, he said, the broader question of how best to spend the money requires greater scrutiny.

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