WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called President Barack Obama’s $74 billion budget allocation for the department an asset to economic growth.
“A strong American economy depends on the roadways, runways and railways that move people and goods from coast to coast and around the globe,” LaHood said in a statement. “President Obama’s plan will enable us to build the American infrastructure we need for tomorrow while putting people back to work today.”
The budget for fiscal year 2013 includes getting started on some long-term projects. The cornerstone to the fiscal year 2013 budget for transportation is a six-year, $476 billion commitment to overhauling rail lines “to ensure these systems are safe and give travelers new options by enhancing passenger rail service,” the department said in a release.
Funding for this comes from the so-called peace dividend, the administration said. “This proposed budget would be fully paid for using half 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 statement said.
However, it has been more than two years since the department’s budget expired. The department has been running on short-term approval from Congress, including eight separate extensions of the previous budget.
The new budget includes a six-year $305 billion commitment to repairing bridges, a 34 percent increase over the previous budget.
The budget proposal also allocates $2.5 billion in the first year of a six-year plan of $47 billion in railroad investments for high-speed intercity passenger lines.
The idea is to reach Obama’s goal of providing 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, the department said.