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GROW AMERICA boosts investment, local control

GROW AMERICA boosts investment, local control

Many Fast Lane readers know that I’m from local government. Before becoming Transportation Secretary, I was mayor of Charlotte and the head of our Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). And while I don’t hold those titles anymore, the old saw is still true: you can take the man out of local government, but you can’t take the local government out of the man.

As much as anything, I remember the competing interests, the complex web of issues and personalities that you have to navigate just to build a mile of road. I can’t remember who said “all politics is local,” but it could easily have been someone working for an MPO.

So when I spoke at the National Association of Regional Councils' annual conference in Louisville yesterday, it felt a little like a homecoming for me.

Photo of Secretary Foxx at N.A.R.C. annual conference
Thanks to Kentucky's Green River Area Development District for this photo!

You know, as difficult as it is to get transportation projects done, it’s about to get even more difficult.

Readers have seen me blog many times about the transportation crisis we’re facing right now, but no one knows this better than the folks I spoke to yesterday, the ones who work at the local level.  Because when it comes to our transportation crisis, they're like the canaries in the coal mine--they experience the consequences of this crisis long before those debating funding laws here in Washington, DC.

Make no mistake, the uncertainty over whether we’ll have funding beyond August has already caused projects to be delayed, or shut down completely--and that means delayed contracts and delayed hiring.

Senator McCaskill of Missouri tells me that MoDOT has stopped all new capacity projects and is just focusing on repairs. Then, there’s Arkansas, where one road project through the state fairgrounds was canceled –even though the fair entrance gate and phone lines were already torn down in expectation of the work. The construction crew never came.

Photo of Secretary Foxx viewing the bottom of an overpass that is part of Nashville's I-40 bridge project
Secretary Foxx viewing the bottom of a deteriorating overpass that's part of Nashville's I-40 bridge project.

The tragic thing is that we’re letting our transportation system crumble at the exact moment we need to build it up. Over the next generation, more will be demanded of our infrastructure than ever before. This country will be home to up to 100 million new people by 2050 – imagine a dozen new New York Cities suddenly dotting our map. And we’ll have to move almost twice the amount of freight to support them.

That's why we’ve put forward a bill called GROW AMERICA that lets us do just that.

GROW AMERICA is a four-year, $302-billion-dollar proposal that increases investment in every mode of surface transportation, including transit, which would see its funding jump by 70 percent.

And for our nation's MPOs, regional councils, and community leaders GROW AMERICA offers something else: greater local control.

Today, 65 percent of America’s population live in metropolitan areas – and 95 percent of all the transit miles traveled are traveled there. Metropolitan regions are the engines of our economy. Yet only eight percent of core federal-aid highway funds are under local control. We need to fix that, and GROW AMERICA will.

Our proposal gives high-performing MPOs more control, a larger share of federal funding. And this isn’t the only way we’re supporting communities. Among other things, our bill expands merit-based programs, like our TIGER grants, that have awarded $4.1 billion to good projects in communities of all sizes.

These are the ideas we’re fighting for. And if we want to see them realized, then we need to see them through together.

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