Track and Quotes

Show Shipment Information - Track and Trace PackageTrack and Trace
Get a Shipping Rate QuoteRate Quote

DOT Must Work With Congress on Funding Plan, Report Says
Monday, 07 December 2009 00:00

The Department of Transportation’s inspector general said the federal agency needs to work with Congress to develop a plan to fund the nation’s surface transportation network.

The recommendation was one of several put forward in IG Calvin Scovel III’s annual report on the challenges facing DOT in the coming year.

“The current funding mechanism is unable to generate adequate cash receipts to meet current outlay levels. . . .” the report said. “Since the administration has opposed any increase in the gas tax given the economic environment, the department will have to work closely with Congress, states and other stakeholders to evaluate all options—including potential changes to the current funding mechanism, as well as the use of alternative funding mechanisms—to address the resulting funding gap.”

The IG’s report highlighted the department’s challenges in ensuring highway safety and distributing funds as part of the stimulus package. The report also chided DOT for not yet putting forward a plan for the now-expired highway authorization.

“While the department recognizes the need for an increase in federal spending in support of state highway programs, it has yet to propose spending levels for the next surface transportation reauthorization,” the report said.

Last month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said DOT would launch a series of listening sessions around the country in preparation for drafting a reauthorization plan.

In a letter to the IG in response to the report, Christopher Bertram, DOT’s chief financial officer, said the existing approaches to financing the Highway Trust Fund are “not sustainable” and will need to be addressed during reauthorization.

“The department is working with Congress to identify the implications of alternative actions to address the long-term funding needs for its . . . surface transportation programs as part of the reauthorization process,” Bertram wrote.

The IG’s report also raised safety issues, stating that “improving transportation safety remains the department’s overarching goal.”

In particular, the report suggested DOT needs to do more to target unsafe motor carriers and drivers.

“The department must take stringent enforcement action against carriers that repeatedly violate safety regulations . . . and ensure that unsafe carriers are placed out of service and not re-issued authority under new identities,” the report said.

The report did acknowledge that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has begun to crack down on so-called reincarnated carriers and repeat offenders of federal regulations.

The IG also calls for paying more attention to FMCSA’s data quality and integrity.

“It is imperative that the department continue improving the quality of crash, inspection and census data,” the report said.

Another challenge the IG identified was the distribution of remaining stimulus funds, including the $1.5 billion set aside for discretionary grants.

The funds will be awarded to large projects throughout the country, DOT said. But the IG’s report warned that the large number of requirements for the grants as part of the stimulus law could make their distribution difficult.

Transport Topics, 12/7/2009