He may work in Washington now, but former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx still praises the city and its commitment to transportation improvement.
But solving the country’s infrastructure problems requires cooperation from leaders at the local, state and federal levels, said Foxx, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, at a meeting with local officials in Charlotte Thursday.
What’s more, Foxx said, is that areas like Charlotte are growing quickly, putting even more pressure on aging infrastructure. With over 750,000 residents, Charlotte’s population is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. and has increased by about 40 percent since 2000.
“With growth, you’re going to have more people trying to get places, more congestion, more traffic, more wear-and-tear on the roadways, and that’s going to be a big problem if we don’t take advantage of the time we have now to tackle it,” Foxx said at the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority meeting.
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Foxx’s visit to Charlotte is part of a four-day, five-state bus tour with Vice President Joe Biden that is focused on highlighting the importance of infrastructure investment and encouraging Congress to pass the Grow America Act, a six-year, $478-billion transportation bill.
The bill requires increasing current revenues in the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by the gas tax and slated to run out in May. To replenish the fund’s coffers, the bill proposes a 14 percent one-time tax on companies that want to bring overseas earnings back to the U.S.
The plan would increase federal highway spending by about 29 percent and federal transit investment by about 62 percent, Foxx said.
Charlotte’s current transportation plan calls for 25 miles of commuter rail, 21 miles of light rail, 16 miles of streetcar and 14 miles of bus rapid-transit by 2030.
“The fortunate thing about this community is it has a plan, but a plan is only as good as your ability to execute it,” Foxx said. “Getting off neutral is going to be really important.”
Foxx said local leaders need to communicate the need for federal funding for their individual projects.
In the South, he said, it’s popular for government to want to “hold the line” on spending.
“In this particular space, spending fills potholes,” Foxx said. “It creates capacity, it helps grow the economy, it helps to bring jobs, and we’ve got to shift our paradigm from doing as little as we possibly can to doing what this country needs to step boldly into the future.”