Obama Unveils New Initiative to Encourage Private Funding of Public Infrastructure

President Barack Obama speaks about transportation and an initiative to increase private sector investment in national infrastructure at the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, Del. President Barack Obama speaks about transportation and an initiative to increase private sector investment in national infrastructure at the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, Del. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

President Obama announced plans for a new infrastructure initiative Thursday to bypass congressional gridlock by promoting private investment in public projects.

Obama arrived in Wilmington, Delaware, where he held a press conference near a portion of highway I-495, which has been closed since last month. The bridge, which runs through the city and carries an estimated 90,000 vehicles per day, was closed after engineers discovered four support columns were tilting to the side. 

The Build America Investment Initiative will establish a committee to look for ways private businesses can more easily invest in American infrastructure projects. A new center at the Transportation Department will be tasked with the initiative. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew will oversee a committee within the center to help find ways to eliminate the barriers that private companies face when investing in public works projects. 

“The president’s visit and announcement today are a part of the administration’s continued push to highlight the importance of investing in our nation’s infrastructure so that we can build on the progress our economy is making by creating jobs and expanding opportunity for all hard-working Americans,” a White House official said in a statement

The trip comes two days after the House of Representatives passed a temporary measure that will continue to fund the Highway Trust Fund through next May, keeping nearly 200,000 people from being laid off, The Washington Post reported.

The Highway Trust Fund, which was established in 1956 to repair American roads and bridges through money raised by the federal gas tax, has continued to face financial hardships as vehicles increase their fuel efficiency standards.  

The temporary House measure raises money through an accounting loophole, raising corporate tax bills by allowing corporations to delay pension payments.Congress doesn't appear close to agreeing on a permanent solution to the problem. 

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