Bush's Policy: Pay As You Go -- Toll Roads, User Fees Part Of Plan To Revitalize Transportation System
WASHINGTON - President Bush announced a new transportation policy today that calls for more user fees, toll roads and shifting more spending to local governments. He said it would help keep America ``the world leader in transportation.''
Bush and Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner unveiled the long-awaited policy, ``Moving America Into the 21st Century, '' to members of Congress and industry officials - many of whom already had found reason to criticize it.
Its overall goal is to maintain the U.S. transportation system as ``the finest in the world.'' However, the report said ``there are increasing signs . . . that the system is beginning to break down.''
``If we work together in this joint venture, America can continue to be the world leader in transportation,'' Bush said.
A coalition of 16 aviation industry groups said today it strongly opposes Bush's proposed increases in aviation taxes, which the president's fiscal 1991 budget calls ``user fees.'' The American Public Transit Association said the policy statement was ``long on advice and short on help.''
The 129-page policy statement covered a wide range of issues affecting air, land and water transportation.
The statement outlined no major federal funding beyond that already
called for in Bush's budget.
It proposed that users, including airline passengers and motorists, pay more of the cost of building, maintaining and administering major transport systems.
The statement lists six goals:
-- Maintain and expand the nation's transportation system by shifting major responsibilities onto local governments and encouraging more private investment, while concentrating federal spending on projects of ``national significance.''
-- Foster a ``sound financial base'' for transportation, emphasizing user fees ``as the key element to financing the federal share of transportation expenditures,'' as well as spending some of the billions of dollars in the aviation and highway trust funds.
-- Keep transportation companies strong and competitive by deregulating the trucking industry and further deregulating other transportation sectors.
-- Ensure that the transportation system supports public safety and national security.
-- Protect the environment by reducing pollution emissions by motor vehicles.
-- Advance U.S. transportation technology by encouraging research into high-speed rail, magnetically levitated trains, tiltrotor aircraft and ``intelligent'' vehicle and highway systems that use computers to increase safety and efficiency.
The Transportation Department began working on the proposal shortly after Skinner took office early last year.
The aviation, mass transit and trucking industries criticized provisions that shift costs to users.
The transit group said, ``The administration's policy would give Uncle Sam junior partnership in the traditional intergovernmental alliance that has underwritten mass transit for more than 25 years.''
The Air Transport Association said it generally supported the new policy but opposed an airport head tax that is included.
The association, which represents major airlines, also cited the lack of clear national standards on noise levels at airports and a timetable for phasing out older, noisier airliners.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, speaking for private pilots, said the policy would let the federal government rely too much on state and local governments.
The American Trucking Associations objected to the call for more toll roads and to the lack of a detailed plan for spending the $14 billion surplus in the highway trust fund.
Points in the transportation plan
-- Highways: Increases the state and local share of federal-aid projects. Allows greater flexibility in the highway trust fund for transit projects.
-- Aviation: Recovers more of costs from users, and allows local airports to impose passenger facility charges. Completes the National Airspace System, a series of projects to modernize air-traffic control.
-- Mass transit: Reduces federal operating assistance and increases the state and local share of federally financed mass transit.
-- Railroads: Ends federal funding for Amtrak, seeks private funding.
-- Maritime: Re-examines maritime programs to give U.S. vessels more chance to compete internationally.
-- Hazardous materials: Extends federal hazardous-material regulations to intrastate shipments.
-- Funding: Emphasizes user fees ``as the key element to financing the federal share of transportation expenditures,'' as well as spending some of the billions of dollars in the aviation and highway trust funds.
-- Regulations: Deregulates trucking and further deregulates other transportation, including repealing railroad-employee liability and retirement laws.
-- The future: Encourages research into high-speed rail, magnetically levitated trains, tilt-rotor aircraft and ``intelligent'' vehicle and highway systems that use computers to increase safety and efficiency.
Associated Press and Washington Post
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