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Secretary Pena promises to bring 'new perspective' to DOT role (Department of Transportation Secretary Federico Pena)

Transportation issues are quality of life issues, Transportation Secretary Federico Pena told local elected officials at the Congressional-City Conference in Washington, D.C. last week. He outlined for conference participants the way the new administration will approach transportation issues over the next four years.

The former Denver Mayor said the Clinton administration is "bringing dramatic change to the way in which we look at transit in America." He told his former local government colleagues from around the nation, "I want to work with you, we want to understand your issues, we want to work out problems, because we are all in this together."

Chiefly, Pena sees his role as ensuring that transportation- related investments, as well as cuts, are made wisely.

"My responsibility as the new Secretary of Transportation is a very simple one," Pena said, "... to bring a new perspective to transportation that says that transportation investments are more than simply building bridges and viaducts and building highways - it's trying to bring in the concerns of the environment as we balance our transportation programs."

"It is also," he said, "investing in high technology like high-speed raid, as other nation's are doing."

Pena noted that the U.S. has fallen behind other nations in its ability and commitment to high tech transportation, but pledged his, and the President's, commitment to "move America into the next century."

That, Pena said, cannot be accomplished without the input of America's cities and towns. "Our challenge in this administration is to find a way to tap into your energy, to find a way to tap into your creativity, to harness the talent and the ideas that all of you bring to our nation in a way to leverage what we bring at the federal level."

"The best ideas," Pena said, "the real energy in this country, the creativity is in our cities, in our townships ..."

He said DOT already is working with local officials "to identify priority projects that are ready to go."

He asked for commitment and cooperation from the local level of government to work closely with state departments of transportation to ensure that newly appropriated ISTEA funds are spent "quickly and efficiently." His reasoning is that in order for the short term economic stimulus to create jobs as soon as possible, the money must be released into local economies with immediacy.

"We believe that transit investments will help clean up our air, will make us more energy independent, will bring us more mobility, and more importantly, will help stimulate our economy," Pena said.

DOT's funding level for stimulus programs is projected to be $4.1 billion under the President's plan. According to the Secretary, $3 billion of that will fully fund the federal highway part of ISTEA, $752 million will go to transit spending, $188 million for Amtrak, and $250 million toward airports.
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Author:Ryder, Julianne Ryan
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 15, 1993
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