U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday, Feb. 1, said President Obama’s $79 billion budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation continues strong levels of investment for safety, the department’s top priority, along with critical investments for infrastructure to generate economic growth and support livable communities.
“President Obama’s budget builds on an historic first year for this Department of Transportation,” LaHood says. “In addition to making critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure, we jump-started high-speed rail across America, launched a campaign against distracted driving and proposed landmark transit safety legislation. This budget reflects our priorities and values by continuing to invest in safety, livable communities and an improved national transportation system.”
LaHood says the budget promotes safety in a number of areas, starting with a new $50 million incentive grant program to the states to combat distracted driving. Since LaHood convened a national Distracted Driving Summit last fall, he has undertaken a nationwide campaign to put an end to the deadly epidemic.
The budget further advances traffic safety with $12 million to improve the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) Five-Star Safety Rating System, which is used to rank the safety of new automobiles, and 66 additional personnel in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assigned to highway and vehicle safety issues.
Safety personnel will be added across agencies, with $7 million and 118 people for additional motor carrier safety inspectors; $1.4 million to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to continue carrying out their action plan to address pipeline and hazardous material safety; and $14 million for the FAA to hire 82 new safety and certification inspectors and safety technical specialists.
Aviation safety is a top priority, receiving $1.1 billion for NextGen air traffic control technology, an increase of $275 million, 32 percent, over the FY 2010 enacted levels.
The budget also places a strong emphasis on transit safety by including $30 million and up to 260 positions to support the Obama administration’s Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009, which the administration proposed to Congress last year to ensure a high and standard level of safety across all transit systems.
Recognizing that a strong transportation infrastructure is an engine for future economic growth, LaHood says the budget establishes and provides $4 billion for a National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund (NIIFF) to issue grants and loans in support of projects that provide a significant economic benefit to the nation or a region.
The budget includes an additional $1 billion for high-speed rail, coming on the heels of Obama’s and Vice President Joe Biden’s Jan. 28 announcement of $8 billion in Recovery Act funds for states across the country to develop America’s first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service.
LaHood also highlighted the importance of livable communities and providing greater choices for transportation users through the integration of transportation, housing and commercial development decisions. The budget provides $527 million for livable communities by establishing an Office of Livable Communities, creating a program to improve local and state project planning and development capabilities, and funding programs that expand transit access for low-income persons.