A $4.2 billion decrease in transportation investment could be possible this year, according to the Bush administration’s fiscal year 2004 budget proposal. The administration proposed a flat investment for highway, transit and aviation infrastructure programs for the next five years.
The proposal would mean last year’s investment level of $31.8 billion would not be reached again until 2007. Congress has yet to finalize a level for 2003 investment; the Senate proposed $31.8 billion while the house made a $27.7 billion recommendation.
According to American Road & Transportation Builders Assoication spokesman Matt Jeanneret, the final numbers this year will probably be an 11 percent reduction in transportation spending.
“A decrease in spending will have a definite negative effect; on jobs, on safety and on traffic congestion,” Jeanneret said. “There is a $20 billion gap of what is proposed by the administration and what the U.S. Department of Transportation has suggested would be needed to sustain an adequate level of road upkeep and safety.”
There are a few positive signs for transportation in Bush’s budget proposal, including the transfer of an excise tax from the federal General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund. The 2.5-cent-per-gallon tax on ethanol fuels would generate $600 million per year for highway improvements if the legislation were passed.
Jeanneret said the tax transfer is a realization by Bush that there is a need for increased investment in transportation.
“It is an encouraging sign,” Jeanneret said. “There is a pretty good shot that it will be passed.”
Another positive move for transportation construction is a proposed $1 billion per year Highway Infrastructure Performance and Maintenance Program, which will focus on “ready-to-go” highway projects that target traffic congestion and improve the infrastructure condition. The Bush administration hopes this will create jobs.