US Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta recently unveiled a $65.6 billion Fiscal Year 2007 budget request that provides record investments for new highway, transit and safety programs, explores new ways to fund transportation projects over the long term and provides funds to encourage continued Amtrak reform.

‘Our transportation network is the backbone of the strongest and most dynamic economy in the world,’ said Secretary Mineta. ‘So this budget looks to the future, setting the stage for modernizing our financing as well as our infrastructure.’

The budget fully funds the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) at nearly $50 billion for transit, highways and safety programs, a $3.3 billion increase over 2006. Mineta noted that one fourth of the budget request will be used to pay for safety initiatives, including $815 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Administration’s proposal includes $900 million for Amtrak. Of that, $500 million is for capital needs and maintenance, especially along the Northeast Corridor where Amtrak owns most of the tracks. The remaining $400 million will fund Efficiency Incentive Grants to encourage reforms of the railroad service, Mineta added.

The budget request also proposes $100 million for a pilot program to test the viability of alternatives to the gasoline fuel tax for financing highway construction and managing congestion. The federal proposal would call for partnerships with up to five states to test fees, tolls, and other approaches designed to examine new ways to raise revenue and at the same time ease traffic on congested roads, Mineta noted.

‘There is a growing consensus that traditional gasoline taxes and airline ticket taxes are not adequate to the task of supporting 21st Century transportation needs,’ said Secretary Mineta. ‘The lessons that we learn through these demonstrations will help inform future decisions on surface transportation policies.’