Bush Administration announces $59.5 billion transportation budget

The Bush Administration has announced a $59.5 billion Fiscal Year 2006 budget request that, it is hoped, will meet the country’s transportation needs. The 2006 proposal includes increased funding for highway, transit and safety programs, and allows for the hiring of additional air traffic controllers, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.

The largest portion of the President’s 2006 request provides $35.4 billion for the Federal Highway Administration. This funding level will provide dollars for states, along with greatly expanded flexibility under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA) to encourage private investment and achieve more efficient use of our highways.

The Department of Transportation’s budget request also includes a $28 billion funding increase for SAFETEA, the President’s six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal, from $256 billion to $284 billion.

“This legislation provides the blueprint for investment that allows state and local governments to tackle gridlock in new and innovative ways and also improves the overall safety and performance of our transportation system,” Secretary Mineta says. “It is imperative that a new reauthorization measure be completed early this year.”

The increase in funding was made possible by legislation signed by the President last year that directs ethanol tax receipts into the Highway Trust Fund and combats fraud that siphons money out of the Fund, Secretary Mineta notes. The funding level will meet the country’s transportation needs, without raising taxes or increasing the deficit, provided Congress avoids a proliferation of earmarks, set-asides, and new programs, the Secretary stresses.

The Secretary also notes that the budget request includes $360 million to support existing commuter and freight service along the Northeast Corridor and elsewhere.

The budget request reflects the Bush Administration’s commitment to rail safety, the Secretary adds. The request proposes a $14 million increase in funding for the Nationwide Differential Global Positioning system, which allows railroads to use positive train control technology to track speed and train location and has the potential to reduce accidents and improve operations along crowded tracks.

Funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations for highway safety increases by $45 million in 2006, and doubles over the life of the SAFETEA proposal, Secretary Mineta says.

The budget also requests includes $14 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to support new infrastructure, hire new air traffic controllers and deploy technology that enhances aviation capacity and safety, Mineta adds. The budget triples funding for the Joint Planning and Development Office, which will help deliver an air transportation system with the capacity to allow travelers to choose how, where, and when they want to travel while making their experience as safe, secure and hassle-free as possible.

The FAA budget request also includes $24.9 million to hire 595 additional air traffic controllers as part of a multi-year plan to address anticipated controller retirements.

Under the proposal, the Department’s new research agency – the Research and Innovative Technology Administration – will receive $39 million to carry out its mission of more effectively managing and coordinating the Department’s research portfolio; and $131 million is requested for the new Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration to safeguard the nation’s pipelines and transportation of hazardous materials.

The Budget in Brief, which summarizes the President’s budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation, is available on the Internet at http://www.dot.gov/.

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