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Obama to outline plan to fix crumbling U.S. roads, rail, bridges


WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will announce in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday a four-year, $302 billion plan to create jobs by fixing the nation's crumbling roads, bridges, rail and transportation infrastructure.

Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to renew federal funding for transportation programs, a deadline that has made state governors concerned about planning projects that typically run through September and into the fall months.

But Obama's plan relies on revenues raised by ending some tax breaks to free up $150 billion for transportation. That would only happen through corporate tax reform, a political long shot ahead of November midterm elections.

The top tax-writing committee in the Republican-led House of Representatives is slated to unveil draft legislation to reform taxes on Wednesday, but any proposed changes to the tax code are widely expected to be shelved.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday "I have no hope for that happening this year," blaming the gridlock on Democrats seeking tax increases.

The White House said Obama is open to alternatives.

"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.

Obama is set to give a speech on the issue at 3:05 p.m. EST (2005 GMT) after touring an operations and maintenance center for Metro Transit, the system of buses, light rail and commuter trains serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul "Twin Cities" region.

Obama has long called for using savings from tax reform to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which relies on an 18.4-cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline to pay for the federal share of spending on roads.

The gas tax, which raises about $35 billion a year, has not been raised in two decades, and the trust fund has fallen short of needs. Transportation SecretaryAnthony Foxx said the fund could run out of money as soon as August.