Today, I travel to Capitol Hill to discuss the role of DOT in the Administration's proposed budget.
I have traveled to more than 30 states and 65 cities in the last year, and I’ve seen firsthand how much Americans depend on a safe, modern, and reliable transportation system to move about; ship and receive goods; and access jobs, health care, and other essential services.
President Obama’s budget request for DOT totals $79 billion--that's a $2 billion increase over this year's levels. These resources will support our top transportation goals:
- Safety on the roads and rails and in the air
- Making communities livable and sustainable
- Modernizing our infrastructure
As the Wall Street Journal noted, it's a relatively modest increase. We think it's enough, though our goals for the year are anything but modest.
For example, within that modest increase is funding for several specific priorities that we're really excited about, some of which will be new next this year:
- Federal Transit Administration transit safety oversight program
- National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund
- Grant program to encourage state distracted driving laws
Other specific priorities currently ongoing include:
- NextGen air traffic control system modernization
- High-speed rail development
- Partnership for Sustainable Communities
- Long-Run Solutions for Surface Transportation Finance and for Improving Program Performance
One thing we've learned from the past year is that infrastructure work creates jobs even while it positions our economy for future economic growth. The infrastructure fund will provide direct federal funding and seed money for large-scale capital project grants that provide a significant economic benefit to the nation or a region. As noted in the New York Times the fund, "establishes a new direction in federal infrastructure investment." We're excited about this because it allows us to target funds more directly to communities and planners.
The new rail transit safety oversight program within the FTA will carry out a comprehensive safety oversight strategy by establishing common safety standards nationwide, as envisioned in the Administration’s transit safety bill.
Transportation must not only be safe but also contribute to livable, sustainable neighborhoods. The President’s plan provides record-level investments to help us build on the tremendous successes we’re achieving through our sustainability partnership with HUD and the EPA. Together, we’re helping state and local governments make smarter investments in their transportation, energy, and housing infrastructure, with better outcomes for our citizens.
High-speed passenger rail service is one route to enhanced livability in many communities. Our recent groundbreaking investments—which have generated tremendous excitement around the country—will go a long way to enhance livability in many communities. Our budget seeks to continue the five-year, $5 billion pledge Congress made in this year’s budget to further develop this 21st century system.
Finally, our leadership campaign against the perils of distracted driving—which kills thousands of Americans every year—has been very effective. We must continue to lead that charge. The President's budget provides support for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop an incentive program encouraging more states to pass laws prohibiting the unsafe use of cell phones and texting while driving.
President Obama’s budget builds on a historic first year for this Department of Transportation.
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 modest budget proposal tackles bold priorities and values. That's a good deal for America.