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July 18, 2014 8:00 AM, EDT
White House Promotes Private Sector in New Infrastructure Initiative, Urges Congress to Act
Jennifer Corbett/The News Journal

President Obama on July 17 signed an initiative aimed at helping state agencies connect with private-sector investors to upgrade the country’s aging transportation infrastructure.

After a speech at the Port of Wilmington in Delaware, the president gave approval to the creation of an office within the Transportation Department that would be dedicated to facilitating access to private capital for large-scale government projects. The office also would seek to improve credit programs for transportation agencies and offer technical assistance for managing public-private partnerships, or P3s.

The White House initiative also would feature an infrastructure investment summit hosted by the Treasury Department scheduled for Sept. 9.

The trip to the First State comes as Congress is expected to send the White House this month legislation that would keep highway projects funded for 10 months. The federal Highway Trust Fund is poised to run out of money in August.

Obama said that while he supports the short-term bill, he would rather see Congress to take up multiyear transportation legislation that guarantees federal dollars and promotes private-sector investments for infrastructure projects.

“If that’s all Congress does, then we’re going to have the same kind of funding crisis nine months from now. And that’s not normally how you fund infrastructure, because you got to plan it. You got to think about how are we helping folks and how are we helping states and cities and municipalities,” Obama said.

In Delaware, the president was joined by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), and state and local officials.

Earlier this week, the president announced an initiative aimed at providing states with guidance so they may enhance their climate resilience. In recent years, storms and hurricanes, such as Superstorm Sandy, have caused significant flooding across densely populated coastal regions.