Bush budget earmarks $59.6B for DOT

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration proposed a $59.6 billion budget for the Transportation Department in fiscal 2002, including $13.2 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration and $521 million for Amtrak.

By: Bush

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration proposed a $59.6 billion budget for the Transportation Department in fiscal 2002, including $13.2 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration and $521 million for Amtrak.

The funding proposal was virtually unchanged from the preliminary budget the new administration floated in February.

The budget adheres to the operating and capital levels authorized in the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, also known as AIR-21.

The law "firewalls" certain funds from the general budget and earmarks them for improvements and maintenance of the aviation system.

During a press conference at DOT headquarters, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta noted that reducing air traffic delays is one of his department's priorities.

"In the year 2000, about 700 million passengers flew in the U.S., a nearly 43% increase in nine years," Mineta said. "By 2010, that figure is expected to reach 1 billion passengers. We are aggressively working to find solutions to meet that increasing demand and to expand air service capacity."

For instance, Mineta said, the budget includes $245 million for investment in so-called Intelligent Transportation Systems, computer systems that would help manage air traffic.

Mineta also wants to increase the DOT policy staff to help address aviation issues, such as those arising from the proposed merger of United Airlines and US Airways.

"I am not sure that we are properly staffed to make recommendations" on the merger, Mineta said. "I need additional staff; I need some good policy people."

Similarly, Mineta said, staff is needed to help continue negotiating Open Skies treaties with other nations.

The administration's budget still has to be approved by Congress, where some members have expressed concerns over cuts affecting other government agencies and the proposed $1 trillion tax cut.

Adventure Travel JDS Africa Middle East JDS Destinations
>