A Senate committee report released today calls for the development and implementation of a national transportation policy to consolidate federal transportation programs now spread among 30 agencies and to permit the Department of Transportation to begin its "mission" of coordinating and administering the programs.
The proposed reorganization is the latest of a series of studies by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and is the result of a two-year-long research effort.
In urging that all federal transportation programs be transferred to DOT, Sen. Charles Percy (R-III), ranking minority member of the committee, said, "Until we have a more unified national transportation policy, this nation will continue to suffer from a hodge-podge of isolated decisions that, when put together, do not make good sense. I am convinced that we can vastly improve our handling of critical transit matters, and related energy issues as well, by focusing within the Department of Transportation more responsibility for an overall transportation strategy and budget to include construction projects and all grant and subsidy programs."
Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.), chairman of the committee, noted that the consolidation of federal transportation responsibilities within DOT was the intent of Congress when it created the department 10 years ago. But, he said, "a decade has passed and bits and pieces of transportation regulation and safety enforcement are still scattered throughout the government."
Among the proposals outlined in the study are:
The transfer of the civil waterway functions of the Army Corps of Engineers to DOT;
The transfer of ship operations and construction subsidies from the Commerce Department's Maritime Administration to DOT;
The shift of the Civil Aeronautics Board's local service airline subsidy program to DOT;
The combination of all water, air, highway, rail and mass transit grants and programs into a single transportation budget account under DOT;
The enactment of a National Transportation Policy Act, which would outline unified national goals and priorities, and give the Secretary of Transportation broad powers to propose regulations regarding any function of the Interstate Commerce Commisssion, Civil Aeronautics Board and Federal Maritime Commission.
Two of the major deficiencies cited by the report in the current transportation operations are that "no single agency is primarily responsible for federal planning and decision making regarding the interdependencies and tradeoffs among auto fuel economy standards, auto emission standards, and auto safety standards," and that lack of long-range planning has led to "indications that we are failing to maintain and renew our highway system."