DOT unveils fiscal 03 budget

The Dept. of Transportation unveiled its fiscal 2003 budget yesterday and said it would seek $59.3 billion in funding for to help provide for improved security and safety of the country's transportation system. The 2003 budget represents an overall increase of $4.7 billion, or 8%, when adjusted for a reduction in highway spending required by law. "President Bush's budget proposal for transportation

The Dept. of Transportation unveiled its fiscal 2003 budget yesterday and said it would seek $59.3 billion in funding for to help provide for improved security and safety of the country's transportation system. The 2003 budget represents an overall increase of $4.7 billion, or 8%, when adjusted for a reduction in highway spending required by law.

"President Bush's budget proposal for transportation will enable our department to meet his three preeminent goals for America: winning the war at home and abroad, protecting our homeland and reviving the economy," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said. "It will enable us to continue our important work with our partners in state and local governments and the private sector to ensure that the public continues to enjoy the transportation service that meets its needs."

In a briefing for reporters, deputy transportation secretary Michael P. Jackson said that the fiscal 2003 budget for transportation includes $4.8 billion for the first full year of funding for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and $7.1 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard, representing the largest increase in the nation's history for the Coast Guard.

For the last three fiscal years, the country has been reaping the benefit of record-level funding for surface transportation, which has been adjusted upward as Highway Trust Fund receipts exceeded expectations. For fiscal year 2003, declining receipts will bring the first downward adjustment, reducing the federal-aid highway program obligation limitation by $4.4 billion to $23.2 billion and the total Federal Highway Administration budget to $24.1 billion.

Even with this reduction, the guaranteed funding mechanism provided in law will have resulted in more than $4.7 billion in additional funding to the states since enactment of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century to help them meet critical transportation needs.

The $430-million budget request for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) includes $205 million for operations and research. The amount includes funding to support implementation of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, which will enable NHTSA to aggressively pursue new rulemakings for dynamic rollover tests, improve child safety restraints and resume statutory responsibilities under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program.

Continuing the Department's emphasis on safety, the budget provides $371 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an increase of 8%, to help reduce the number of traffic accidents involving trucks and buses. Of that amount, $116 million anticipates implementation of the NAFTA trucking provisions and will go to improve safety enforcement operations and construct inspection facilities along the southern border.

The $116 million includes $61 million for the border enforcement program, $47 million for border infrastructure improvements, and $8 million to improve state safety enforcement operations.

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