President Obama has unveiled a 2013 transportation budget proposal that would nearly double infrastructure spending over the next six years and step up the federal investment in pipeline safety.
The centerpiece of the $74 billion plan is the roll-out of a six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal for highway, bridge and mass transit projects.
|Precast pier units are erected for a new Eastern Avenue Bridge in Washington, D.C. The proposed six-year surface transportation plan would increase federal spending for road and bridge construction and repair by 34 percent.|
Pipeline safety, a growing national concern, would also see significant additional funding.
The Department of Transportation says the budget “would be fully paid for, using half of the six-year savings achieved from ramping down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the other half used to pay down the national debt.”
The 2013 DOT budget proposal is a 2 percent increase over 2012.
6 Years, $476B
The surface transportation proposal totals $476 billion over six years. It includes:
• $305 billion to build and repair U.S. roads and bridges (a 34 percent increase over the previous authorization) using accelerated programs;
• $108 billion in funding for what DOT calls “affordable, sustainable, and efficient transit options”—a 105 percent increase over the previous authorization;
• $47 billion for high-speed rail; and
• $12.3 billion for safety programs.
The plan also streamlines many DOT programs, consolidating 55 highway programs into five and five transit programs into two.
The initial investment would be $50 billion in 2012.
Pipeline & Hazmat Safety
The 2013 DOT request also seeks $276 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a $75 million increase over the FY 2012 allocation.
The request includes $177 million for the administration’s Pipeline Safety Reform initiative, launched in 2011 in the wake of several deadly pipeline explosions and environmentally damaging leaks.
|The 2013 budget proposal would beef up the inspection staff of the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.|
The request—$67 million more than allocated in FY2012—would beef up federal pipeline inspection ranks and invest $13 million in R&D. Those funds would allow PHMSA to “amend its project evaluation and decision process so there is no industry participation,” the agency said.
Critics have accused PHMSA of being too cozy with the pipeline industry, allowing inspection, testing and maintenance lapses that led to serious accidents.
On the hazmat side, additional funding would go for investigators and personnel to review and process hazmat transportation applications. The budget also anticipates a new Special Permit and Approvals user fee from companies that transport hazardous materials.
The additional funding request follows bipartisan enactment of the 2011 Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act, which the President signed in January.
The DOT budget proposes $146 million—$10 million less than the 2012 allocation—for the federal Maritime Administration, which includes the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and six State Maritime Academies. The $10 million requested for ship disposal would add $4 million to that program.
The Maritime Security Program would receive $186 million; no additional funds are requested for the Assistance to Small Shipyards program.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said the plan would “enable us to build the American infrastructure we need for tomorrow while putting people back to work today.”
“A strong American economy depends on the roadways, runways, and railways that move people and goods from coast to coast and around the globe,” said LaHood.
Republicans immediately denounced the proposal as election-year pandering.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called it a “campaign document” that would “make the economy worse.”
“The president is shirking his responsibility to lead and using this budget to divide,” McConnell said in a statement.
House Speaker John Boehner called Obama’s budget plan “a gloomy reflection of his failed policies” and a “collection of rehashes, gimmicks, and tax increases” that is “bad for job creation, our economy, and America’s seniors.”
Obama noted that the transportation plan depends in part on cuts from other agencies— “difficult cuts that, frankly, I wouldn’t normally make if they weren’t absolutely necessary,” he said in remarks at Northern Virginia Community College outside Washington, D.C.
“What that allows us to do is to invest in the things that will help grow our economy right now,” he said. “We can’t cut back on those things that are important for us to grow. We can’t just cut our way into growth.”