Bush's '08 Proposed Budget Calls for $42 Billion for Highway Construction and Safety Programs
WASHINGTON, D.C. --- In an online press conference on Monday, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said President Bush's newly proposed $2.9 trillion budget includes a record $42 billion for funding highway construction and safety programs."Building on our safety accomplishments over the last six years, this budget will allow us to target problem areas like motorcycle crashes and drunk driving," Peters said. "Crashes not only cost precious lives, but also precious time for everyone waiting for the road to be cleared and re-opened. So our budget supports aggressive development of 'Intelligent Transportation Systems,' which put the latest technologies to work to help both eliminate crashes and to cut congestion."Peters added that the budget also proposes new resources to alleviate highway and city street congestion, directing $175 million to support the Congestion Relief Initiative announced last year. "This funding will help growing metropolitan areas that want to test leading-edge solutions," Peters said. "It will help get real-time traffic information to commuters, so they will know in advance when the roads are congested and be able to make alternative travel plans. And it will allow us to accelerate development of the trade and travel corridors that will be key to moving freight and people without congestion in the future."Presidential budgets are generally theoretical, however. Congress ultimately has the authority to pass spending bills. Last month, Peters announced plans to improve federal vehicle crash tests during a visit to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.Under the improvements suggested for the five-star safety rating program --– known as the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) --- vehicles will be subjected to more stringent rollover, frontal and side crash tests. Peters added that the new proposal could include, for the first time, ratings for crash avoidance technologies like electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems.The NCAP proposal lays out short- and long-term strategies to not only improve overall vehicle safety, but to provide more information to help consumers make informed decisions when they buy vehicles, Peters said. She also announced plans to hold a public meeting on March 7 in Washington, D.C., to give the public the opportunity to provide input and ask questions.For nearly 30 years, Peters said, NCAP has been the catalyst for encouraging major safety improvements to new car design. Consumer demand has driven more manufacturers to design passenger vehicles that are safer than ever before. But even with those high standards, she said, more than 40,000 people still lose their lives in car crashes on America's roads each year.Each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs rollover and crash tests on new cars and trucks and assigns them with a safety rating. Five stars is the top rating. Today, 95 percent of new cars receive the top ratings in crash tests.