On Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said President Obama's $79 billion budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation continues strong levels of investment for safety, the department's top priority, along with critical investments for infrastructure to generate economic growth and support livable communities.
The budget promotes safety in a number of areas, starting with a new $50 million incentive grant program to the states to combat distracted driving. Since Sec. LaHood convened a national Distracted Driving Summit last fall, he has undertaken a nationwide campaign to put an end to the deadly epidemic.
The budget further advances traffic safety with 66 additional personnel in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assigned to highway and vehicle safety issues, while $7 million will go toward adding 118 additional motor carrier safety inspectors.
The budget also places a strong emphasis on transit safety by including $30 million and up to 260 positions to support the Obama Administration's Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009, which the administration proposed to Congress last year to ensure a high and standard level of safety across all transit systems.
Recognizing that a strong transportation infrastructure is an engine for future economic growth, Sec. LaHood announced that the budget establishes and provides $4 billion for a National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund (NIIFF) to issue grants and loans in support of projects that provide a significant economic benefit to the nation or a region.
The budget includes an additional $1 billion for high-speed rail, coming on the heels of President Obama and Vice President Biden's January 28 announcement of $8 billion in Recovery Act funds for states across the country to develop America's first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service.
Sec. LaHood also highlighted the importance of livable communities, and providing greater choices for transportation users through the integration of transportation, housing and commercial development decisions. This budget provides $527 million for livable communities by establishing an Office of Livable Communities, creating a program to improve local and state project planning and development capabilities, and funding programs that expand transit access for low-income persons.
A budget summary document is available here.