This morning, I appeared before the Senate Budget Committee to discuss President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget for DOT.
Now, our proposed budget is a modest one, but it promises to achieve way beyond that modesty.
Committee Chair Senator Conrad asked me to "hit the high points," for his Committee, and this is some of what I told them.
Our goals for 2011 align around three key priorities:
And I am confident that we can work toward these goals effectively without breaking the bank.
On safety, we have two new initiatives that I am passionate about. First, this budget proposes $30 million to the Federal Transit Administration to begin establishing, monitoring and enforcing safety standards for transit and light-rail systems. Recent deadly accidents in Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco underscore the need for common nationwide safety standards, and for federal enforcement of those standards. I am no advocate of expanding the Federal government unnecessarily, but currently those systems have little or no consistent oversight. That alarms me, particularly when these fatal crashes occur.
Second, we propose $50 million to help the states put an end to distracted driving. I know I've been on a tear about this deadly behavior, but that's because it is killing thousands of Americans every year. That sickens me, and we need to help the states educate drivers and encourage enforcement.
On livability, the Administration proposes further support of its 3-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities with $527 million that will help us integrate transportation, housing and other investments to create the kinds of communities people want to live in. This means increasing transportation choices for all Americans, and providing affordable access to jobs, schools, recreation, and other services. And funding for these projects cuts across all communities–from major cities to rural towns and tribal reservations.
Finally on economic competitiveness and a state of good repair, President Obama has proposed our most significant innovation, a National Infrastructure Bank. This would be launched with $4 billion that will fund significant national and regional high-priority projects. It will also leverage private investment. Direct awards for this funding will model our highly regarded TIGER grants, many of which went to creative, multi-stakeholder partnerships.
I know this proposal has bright prospects in Congress because we've seen great interest from legislators and from a wide variety of transportation and industry advocates, environmental organizations, and think-tanks from all over the political spectrum.
And all of this is on top of the $1 billion we're proposing for additional high-speed rail support. This program really covers both livability and economic competitiveness. An American high-speed rail system will deliver the kind of increased mobility passengers want and the 21st century economy requires.
A final important point is that all of the programs I discussed with the Senate Budget Committee will create jobs, good-paying jobs that American workers need.
Now, I know that Congress isn't about to pass our proposal untouched. So I look forward to working with my former colleagues on the Hill on this modest but ambitious budget.