Obama’s budget would provide $129B for DOT

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Feb 15, 2011

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday, Feb. 14, praised President Obama’s $129 billion budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation, saying that it would lay a new foundation for economic growth and competitiveness by rebuilding the nation’s transportation systems, enabling innovative solutions to transportation challenges and ensuring transportation safety for all Americans.

“President Obama’s budget for the Department of Transportation is a targeted investment in America’s economic success,” LaHood says. “If we’re going to win the future, we have to out-compete the rest of the world by moving people, goods and information more quickly and reliably than ever before. President Obama’s investments in rebuilding our crumbling roadways and runways, and modernizing our railways and bus systems, will help us do just that.”

LaHood says the transportation investments proposed in Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget, the first year of a six-year transportation plan, would put Americans to work repairing the bridges and repaving the roads we have now, while supporting the development of the new electric buses and high-speed rail lines of America’s future.

Meanwhile, the budget proposal consolidates DOT programs, institutes government reforms and cuts red tape, LaHood says; more than 55 separate highway programs would be streamlined into five core programs to eliminate overlap.

The administration’s six-year proposal would provide $336 billion, a 48 percent increase over the previous authorization, to rebuild roads and bridges, and $119 billion, a 128 percent increase over the previous authorization, in funding for sustainable and efficient transit options.

The budget would establish a National Infrastructure Bank that would leverage private capital to build complex large-scale projects that hold significant economic benefits to a region or the nation as a whole. A new competitive incentive program, called the Transportation Leadership Awards, would reward unique projects that find new ways to connect people to opportunities and products to markets.

To promote DOT’s safety efforts, the budget also would provide $50 million for the department’s ongoing campaign against distracted driving, as well as $35 million to promote seatbelt use and combat drunk drivers. Also, for the first time, the Federal Transit Administration would be given the authority to oversee rail transit safety in cities across the country.

‘Short shrift to our nation’s highways’

The American Trucking Associations said today, Feb. 15, that the Obama administration’s budget and outline for reauthorization fall short of dealing with the transportation needs of the nation’s consumers and shippers.

“While very substantial increases in funding are proposed for high-speed passenger rail, transit, an infrastructure bank and a ‘livability’ initiative, the proposal gives short shrift to our nation’s highways, which Americans overwhelmingly rely on for their daily transportation needs and goods movement,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. Graves said that while the administration is proposing large increases in funding for surface transportation, “it has yet to solve the mystery of how to pay for the program, including how to pay to rebuild and expand our network of highways and bridges.”

Graves said ATA continues to support an increase in federal taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to finance needed road and bridge projects “even though we have been told a fuel tax increase is off the table – because our members understand that roads aren’t free and they’re not cheap. While the administration is correct that we need massive long-term investments in transportation, these proposals beg the question of who is going to pay for it and what are they paying for.”