Budget provides boost for transportation, offer long-term improvement plan

“The president will work with the Congress to ensure that this funding boost is offset and does not increase the deficit,” the budget said. 

The request includes $50 billion in up-front investment that could provide a “boost alone would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in the first few years and in industries suffering from protracted unemployment.”

The budget plan calls for $30 billion for the establishment of a National Infrastructure Bank and begins investment into a 25-year plan to improve and expand the nation’s high-speed rail system to provide access to 80 percent of Americans. 

The Obama administration recently announced a six-year, $53 billion plan to expand high-speed rail. The 2012 budget contains $8 billion for the project. The plan builds on the $10.5 billion already devoted to high-speed rail, including $8 billion in economic stimulus funds and $2.5 billion from the 2010 budget. 

The budget also includes $32 billion for a competitive grant program that would provide incentives for state and local partners to make safety and livability upgrades in communities. 

In addition, the budget also consolidates of 55 duplicative programs, often-earmarked highway programs, into five streamlined programs, doesn’t contain earmarks and seeks to cancel long-dormant ones. 

The budget requests a one-time appropriation of $250 million to advance the Federal Aviation Administration’s satellite-based air-traffic control system (NextGen) and make near-term improvements in FAA’s air traffic control infrastructure. Of that funding, $200 million will be used to accelerate NextGen technologies and $50 million will be used to upgrade FAA capital infrastructure such as power systems and air traffic control centers and towers.

Overall, the FAA would get $18.7 billion in 2012, an increase of 17 percent. FAA operations, including payments for staff and controller salaries, would grow to $9.82 billion or by 5 percent. 

All spending on NextGen would increase 6 percent to $3.12 billion.

The budget request also decreases funding for airport grants by $1.1 billion, or by 31 percent, to $2.4 billion, by eliminating guaranteed funding for large and medium hub airports, while allowing those airports to increase the non-federal Passenger Facility Charge, giving those airports “greater flexibility to generate their own revenue.”

Eligible airports in all size categories will be able to compete for an additional $3.1 billion in one-time funding that will be made available under the president’s infrastructure plan. 

Under the plan, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would receive $950 million, up 15.6 percent from $822 million in 2010. 

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently said he was optimistic that Congress can complete a long-term surface transportation reauthorization before the August recess. 

LaHood said he has discussed the long-delayed measure with House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). 

LaHood recently touted the $48 billion included in the economic stimulus as helping start 15,000 projects and creating thousands of jobs in the past two years.  

Former Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who proposed a $500 billion measure in 2009 that included $50 billion for high-speed rail efforts, saw his legislation put on hold by the Obama administration because of the large price tag and the lack of a funding mechanism. 

Before leaving Congress, Oberstar continued to argue that a six-year bill would create 6 million jobs in the time frame. 

Tags Barbara Boxer Jay Rockefeller

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