DOT drives dollars to deployment

The Transportation Department's focus for fiscal 2002 will be on deploying technology that has been under development to improve the safety and efficiency of the nation's transportation systems.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the department's $59.5 billion budget request for fiscal 2002 is a 6 percent increase over fiscal 2001, excluding one-time projects that cost the agency $2.8 billion.

Funding requests are included for somewhat controversial technology projects, such as the Federal Aviation Administration's Wide Area Augmentation System for satellite navigation and the Coast Guard's Deepwater program to replace the service's aging fleet and the sensors used to communicate with them.

Adm. James Loy, the Coast Guard commandant, said that the budget for the Deepwater program and the National Distress and Response System Modernization Project reflects the agency's commitment to information technology.

"Our strategic goal is to become an e-Coast Guard," he said.

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey said she would like to direct funding toward speeding up programs for runway surveillance and the FAA's satellite navigation program.

"The $2.9 billion proposed for aviation capital modernization includes funding for delay reduction initiatives such as weather systems and improved automation aids," Mineta said. The budget includes $112 million, a 13 percent increase over 2001, to address runway incursions.

The FAA budget request also includes $28.7 million for the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

DOT will invest $253 million, up 32 percent, for Intelligent Transportation Systems, he said.

"We've spent a lot of money on [research and development] for ITS, and I really think it's time for deployment," Mineta said. He noted that travel information signs are good because they warn of congestion ahead on a highway, but by the time drivers sees the signs, they are already in traffic. It would be better to deploy systems that provide alternate routes and other useful information, he said.

"While expanding our transportation system capacity is necessary, it is not the only answer to managing growth and congestion," Mineta said.

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