Obama due in St. Paul to pitch $300B transportation plan


President Barack Obama plans to give a speech Wednesday afternoon at the newly renovated Union Depot in St. Paul, where he'll urge Congress to approve a $302 billion transportation plan.

The surface transportation reauthorization bill aims to create a surge of new spending on transportation and infrastructure projects in the next four years, with a goal of creating middle class jobs and boosting investment in the nation's aging road and rail systems.

Congressional lawmakers are eyeing a Sept. 30 deadline to renew federal funding for transportation programs, which has some governors nervous about planning projects that would run well into the fall, Reuters notes.

The president says the money for the plan can come from closing tax loopholes, including $150 billion in "one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform," according to White House officials, the Washington Post reports.

The plan to use a corporate tax overhaul to pay for the transportation plan would be an alternative to raising the federal gas tax, but it is unlikely to pass this year, Senate leaders have already said, USA Today reported.

"While the president will show how to fully pay for his proposal in this way, he will also make clear that he is open to ideas and wants to work with Congress in a bipartisan way to get this done," the White House said in a statement.

The Star Tribune reports that Obama also plans to announce another round of funding for a federal grant competition that funneled $35 million to St. Paul to help pay for the makeover of Union Depot, a 1920s building revitalized as a mixed-use transit center during a $243 million renovation.

The depot reopened in December 2012 and will serve as a transit hub for buses, the new light-rail line, taxis, bicycles and passenger trains.

Obama plans to announce the new $600 million grant competition, dubbed TIGER grants, which the White House says also leverages money from the private sector and state and local governments to spark investments that create jobs and strengthen infrastructure. In five years, the grant competition has funneled $3.5 billion to 270 projects nationwide.

The president's 2:05 p.m. speech will create traffic hassles that begin Wednesday morning in downtown St. Paul, police say. Streets will be closed and detours set up by noon.

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