U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta today unveiled the Bush administrations six-year $247 billion surface transportation reauthorization proposal. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA), serves as the largest surface and public transportation investment in U.S. history.
The Secretary said the administrations proposal more than doubles funding for highway safety over levels provided by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and serves as a framework for investments needed to maintain and grow the nations vital transportation infrastructure.
"The proposal I have submitted to the Congress is more than a simple spending plan--it is a key blueprint for investment," said Secretary Mineta. "SAFETEA, when enacted by the Congress, will help ensure transportation projects are completed on budget and on time, while protecting the environment. More importantly, this proposal will further the administrations commitment to dramatically reducing the number of highway injuries and fatalities. I look forward to working with the Congress to help pass this important legislation without delay."
The Secretary also said that SAFETEA, once enacted, would help modernize federal safety programs, create jobs and sustain economic growth, reduce congestion and minimize project delays, increase funding flexibility for states and localities, improve public transit efficiency and help protect the environment.
Citing the unacceptable costs of highway fatalities and injuries, 43,000 lives and $230.6 billion annually, Secretary Mineta said that saving lives would be the number one priority for the department. The proposal would create a new core-funding category dedicated to safety within the federal-aid highway program to increase visibility and funding beyond the current safety set-aside provisions.
SAFETEA continues the funding guarantees of TEA-21 that linked highway funding with the receipts generated by transportation excise taxes; by redirecting to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund, the 2.5 cents per gallon of the gasohol tax currently deposited in the General Fund; and dedicates an additional $1 billion a year of Highway Trust Fund dollars over and above each year's estimated receipts into the Highway Trust Fund to improve highway infrastructure performance and maintenance.
SAFETEA would smooth out the wide annual swings in total highway program funding caused in part by TEA-21s Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA) mechanism by modifying the RABA calculation so that annual funding level adjustments are less dependent on future anticipated receipts and more dependent on the levels of actual receipts. SAFETEA also continues guaranteed funding for the portion of the transit program provided from the Highway Trust Fund and creates a new RABA mechanism for transit.