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THIS WEEK FROM WASHINGTON
& Beyond for Wednesday, July 8th


Panel Approves Transportation Funds


.c The Associated Press

By GLEN JOHNSON

WASHINGTON (AP) - After threats that Amtrak would get no further money, Senate budget writers agreed Wednesday to a $555 million boost that should allow the national railroad to move forward with its financial recovery plan.

The transportation subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voting on $47.5 billion worth of transportation proposals for the 1999 federal budget, also approved $27 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $9.85 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration and $5.36 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.

Among other proposed spending is $2.1 billion for airport improvements and $200 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System, a road network covering Appalachia.

``My first priority for putting this bill together was to ensure the critical safety-related programs in this bill were funded at adequate levels,'' said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the subcommittee.

The Amtrak money had been a pressing question in the budget deliberations since Shelby threatened to eliminate the railroad's appropriation. President Clinton's budget proposed $621 million.

Shelby complained that continued funding detracted from needed money for aviation and highway safety, as well as Coast Guard search-and-rescue and drug interdiction efforts. Had Shelby eliminated the appropriation, it would have been hard to reverse, since committee appropriations typically serve as the basis for the budget proposal that will soon be voted upon by the full Senate.

``However, after working with the minority and the administration for several weeks on this issue, we opted to give the administration additional authority to manage some capital acquisition programs to provide the outlays to fund Amtrak,'' Shelby said.

The $555 million appropriation could spare Amtrak from having to siphon money from a $2.2 billion pot created last year to help it make long-term capital improvements. Those improvements are considered crucial for Amtrak to meet a deadline for becoming self-sufficient by 2002. ``We are optimistic about their ability to carry their own load in a few years ahead,'' said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who had fought for the appropriation.

George Warrington, acting president and chief executive officer of Amtrak, said he is pleased with the Senate funding but hopes the House appropriates the full $621 million requested by the president.

The bill, which will be reviewed Friday by the entire Appropriations Committee, also would:

Give the U.S. Coast Guard $3.96 billion, up from $3.93 billion this year.

Boost the Federal Transit Administration appropriation 11 percent. The money would be used to build new light rail systems, replace dilapidated public buses and construct facilities to allow travelers to make connections between different forms of transportation.

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====>>>>TEXT OF LETTER FROM SENATORS


Last Updated 07/09/98 11:05 hrs. EST



INDEX OF RECENT UPDATES

Not Looking Good Again For Amtrak

Surface Transportation Board Update

CLINTON HOLDS BACK

CEO REPLACEMENT

DOWNS RESIGNS

Week of 12/05/97

CLINTON SIGNS BILL

Summary of Provisions



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