(Adds reaction from Rep. Shuster, Sen. Rockefeller, paragraphs
By Eric Beech
WASHINGTON, April 29 The Obama administration on
Tuesday sent a bill to Congress that aims to cover an expected
shortage in money to spend on America's bridges, roads and
transit systems, but Republican opposition could prevent its
Funding for the four-year, $302 billion legislation would
come partly from ending certain tax breaks for businesses, a
provision opposed by many Republicans. Transportation Secretary
Anthony Foxx said the administration would be open to other
ideas to raise the money.
"At the end of the day, the important thing is that we pass
a bill that avoids a destructive collapse in funding that would
threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs and inflict unnecessary
damage on our economy," Foxx said on a media teleconference.
The Highway Trust Fund traditionally has been bankrolled by
taxes on gasoline and diesel, but with fuel use stagnant the
fund is not bringing in enough revenue to cover infrastructure
needs. It is projected to run out of money as soon as August.
Republican Representative Bill Shuster, chairman of the
House Transportation Committee, said in a statement he is sure
"won't agree with all the details" in the bill.
Even some Democrats were cool to the proposal. Senator Jay
Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce, Science and
Transportation Committee, called it "one step in the right
direction." He said finding ways to pay for the bill would not
be easy and a number of funding options should be considered.
Congress has all but ruled out raising the
18.4-cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline and the 24.4-cents-a-gallon
levy on diesel, which is the main source of funding for the
Foxx said some states are already canceling or delaying
transportation projects "because of the uncertainty at the
The administration's proposal would address the trust fund's
looming shortfall and provide an additional $87 billion to pay
for a backlog of repairs such as structurally deficient bridges
and aging transit systems.
A report last week by the American Road and Transportation
Builders Association estimated that roughly one in 10 U.S.
bridges, more than 63,000, is in urgent need of repair. Many are
part of the interstate highway system.
To help boost transportation funding at the state level, the
legislation would loosen rules on when states are permitted to
establish tolls on interstate highways.
The bill would also boost the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration's efforts to oversee automotive safety. It
would increase to $300 million from $35 million the civil
penalties that NHTSA can levy against automakers who fail to act
quickly on vehicle recalls.
NHTSA is investigating why General Motors waited
until February to recall 2.6 million cars for faulty ignition
switches when it first learned of the defect more than 10 years
Peter Rogoff, acting under secretary of transportation, said
the bill would strengthen NHTSA authority to require automakers
to remove vehicles from the market when a defect is discovered.
(Reporting by Eric Beech, Editing by Ros Krasny, Doina Chiacu
and Tom Brown)