DOT’s Proposed 2010 Budget Released Monday

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released its proposed 2010 fiscal year budget of $72.5 billion. This is in addition to the $48.1 billion that has been allocated in the stimulus bill.

Pending final approvals, this could mean that $120.6 billion will be made available for much needed transportation infrastructure repairs. That’s a lot of money. Isn’t it a shame that $120 billion plus is only a start at resolving our infrastructure problems?

Reading through the budget highlights you really want to believe that this approach could be moving us in the right direction to improve the routine maintenance of the infrastructure; make extensive repairs where needed; update the various sectors within the system and integrate them so that they function like a well designed machine instead of being competitive with each other.

Funding Highlights:

  • Commits to better target surface transportation spending and explores options to make the nation’s communities more livable and less congested, such as through road pricing
  • Increases funding for public transit to support commuters, improve air quality, and reduce greenhouse gases
  • Supports development of high-speed rail networks across the country to link regional population centers
  • Supports the Next Generation Air Transportation System to modernize the air traffic control system.

Commits To Developing Sustainable Solutions For Surface Transportation Programs And To Improving Program Performance
Surface transportation programs are at a crossroads. The current framework for financing and allocating surface transportation investments is not financially sustainable; nor does it effectively allocate resources to meet our critical national needs. The Administration intends to work with the Congress to reform surface transportation programs both to put the system on a sustainable financing path and to make investments in a more sustainable future, enhancing transit options and making our economy more productive and our communities more livable. Further, the nation’s surface transportation system must generate the best investments to reduce congestion and improve safety. To do so, the Administration will emphasize the use of economic analysis and performance measurement in transportation planning. This will ensure that taxpayer dollars are better targeted and spent.

Initiates A New Federal Commitment To High Speed Rail
To provide Americans a 21st century transportation system, the Administration proposes a five-year, $5 billion, high-speed rail state grant program. Building on the $8 billion down payment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the President’s proposal marks a new Federal commitment to give the traveling public a practical and environmentally sustainable alternative to flying or driving. Directed by the states, this investment will lead to the creation of several high-speed rail corridors across the country linking regional population centers.

Modernizes The Air Traffic Control System
The budget provides approximately $800 million for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, a long-term effort to improve the efficiency, safety and capacity of the air traffic control system. The 2010 budget supports moving from a ground-based radar surveillance system to a more accurate satellite-based surveillance system; development of more efficient routes through the airspace; and improvements in aviation weather information.

Improves Rural Access To The Aviation System
The Administration is committed to maintaining small communities’ access to the National Airspace System. The budget provides a $55 million increase over the 2009 level to the Department of Transportation to fulfill current program requirements as demand for subsidized commercial air service increases. However, the program that delivers this subsidy is not efficiently designed. Through the budget process, the Administration intends to work with the Congress to develop a more sustainable program model that will fulfill its commitment while enhancing convenience for travelers and improving cost effectiveness.

Makes Budgetary Treatment Of Transportation Programs More Transparent
Budget authority for highway, transit, highway safety, and airport improvement programs usually has been defined as mandatory contract authority provided in authorizing legislation. However, the levels of contract authority have been, for the most part, controlled by obligation limitations in appropriations acts. Outlays from the obligation limitations have always been scored as discretionary. To more transparently display program resources, the Administration proposes changing the budgetary treatment of transportation programs to show both budget authority and outlays as discretionary. For 2009, the discretionary budget authority top line would be increased by approximately $53 billion, increasing DOT budget authority total from $17 billion under the typical presentation to $70 billion. Similar budget authority adjustments would be made for each out year. The change would not affect outlays or the deficit or surplus—just more transparently convey to the taxpayer the real costs of supporting the transportation infrastructure our nation needs.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement: “This administration inherited a difficult problem – a system that can no longer pay for itself. We are looking at every option to solve it, but we are not going to be ready overnight.”

Sec. LaHood’s primary objective is to distribute the DOT’s Stimulus Package funds into the economy as quickly as possible.

Speaking before the board of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) at a special meeting at the Russell Senate Office Building, LaHood said his immediate goal is to get the $28 billion in highway infrastructure funding, $12 billion in transit system dollars and $8 billion to develop a national high speed rail network into the hands of state governors and mayors as soon as possible.

“Our goal is to get that money out the door this spring, summer and fall,” LaHood said. “And you as truckers will be transporting a good part of the materials for all of that. The trucking industry is critical to the health of the economy.”

Greg Sitek

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