WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta this week unveiled a $65.6 billion Fiscal Year 2007 budget request that provides record investments for new highway, transit and safety programs, explores new ways to fund transportation projects over the long term and provides funds to encourage continued Amtrak reform.
“Our transportation network is the backbone of the strongest and most dynamic economy in the world,” said Secretary Mineta. “So this budget looks to the future, setting the stage for modernizing our financing as well as our infrastructure.”
The budget fully funds the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) at nearly $50 billion for transit, highways and safety programs, a $3.3 billion increase over 2006. Mineta noted that one fourth of the budget request will be used to pay for safety initiatives, including $815 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Administration’s proposal includes $900 million for Amtrak. Of that, $500 million is for capital needs and maintenance, especially along the Northeast Corridor where Amtrak owns most of the tracks. The remaining $400 million will fund Efficiency Incentive Grants to encourage reforms of the railroad service, Mineta added.
“In last year’s budget, we demanded reform, and over the past year, both Amtrak and the Congress have responded,” Secretary Mineta said. “In recognition of this progress, and with the expectation that we will see much more by the end of the fiscal year, the President requests funds to help Amtrak make the transition to a new and better model of intercity passenger rail.”
The budget request also proposes $100 million for a pilot program to test the viability of alternatives to the gasoline fuel tax for financing highway construction and managing congestion. The federal proposal would call for partnerships with up to five states to test fees, tolls, and other approaches designed to examine new ways to raise revenue and at the same time ease traffic on congested roads, Mineta noted.
“There is a growing consensus that traditional gasoline taxes and airline ticket taxes are not adequate to the task of supporting 21st Century transportation needs,” said Secretary Mineta. “The lessons that we learn through these demonstrations will help inform future decisions on surface transportation policies.”
The budget requests $13.7 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including $8.4 billion to address operational needs, hire 194 inspectors and other safety personnel and 1,136 new air traffic controllers to offset retirements expected in 2007. It also provides $2.8 billion for the Airport Improvement Program to construct new runways and to meet the Department’s goal for improving runway safety, capacity and efficiency.
The Secretary noted that the Administration will propose a reauthorization plan for the FAA that would include new financing proposals for the Aviation Trust Fund. Current revenue coming into the fund, which provides resources for maintaining and expanding airport capacity nationwide, is tied to the price of a ticket. The Secretary said the proposal will include forward-looking ideas.
“There is general agreement that our growing aviation system needs a more stable and predictable revenue stream that creates a more direct relationship between revenues collected and services provided,” Mineta said.
The Department’s budget request includes $122 million for the Next Generation Air Transportation System initiative. Of that, $80 million will go to the FAA for the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology, and another $24 million would fund System Wide Information Management (SWIM). Together, these two systems will improve safety, efficiency and security throughout the aviation system, the Secretary said.
The budget request includes $8.9 billion for the Federal Transit Administration. The money will help improve transportation options for millions of Americans in urban, suburban and rural communities and will improve service for many elderly and disabled passengers, Mineta said. The budget also would fully fund the Maritime Security Program, which provides support to troops abroad, and make $15 million available for capital improvements to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
A detailed Budget in Brief, which summarizes the Bush Administration’s budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation, soon will be available on the Internet at www.dot.gov .