The Bush administration will propose a transportation reauthorization bill that provides $247.2 billion for highways and transit over the next six years, a 19% increase over the level guaranteed by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, U.S. Dept. of Transportation officials say.

Deputy DOT Secretary Michael Jackson told reporters on Feb. 3 that the administration's bill, which hasn't received final White House clearance, would provide $195.2 billion for highways and $51.8 billion for mass transit in fiscal years 2004 through 2009. The $247-billion total compares with $207 billion guaranteed by TEA-21, including funds from higher-than-projected fuel tax receipts under that statute.

Under the proposal, highway spending would rise from $31.1 billion in 2004 to $35.8 billion in 2009, while transit funding would increase from $7.2 billion in 2004 to $8.1 billion in 2009.

Jackson said that in its 2004 budget, the administration is proposing to shift to the Highway Trust Fund the 2.5 cents per gallon in gasohol taxes that now flow into the general fund. That would raise about $600 million a year for the new bill, he said.

In addition, the budget seeks to spend down about $1 billion per year of the balance in the trust fund and allocate that for a new "Infrastructure Performance and Maintenance" program "aimed at immediate highway needs and at projects that can be implemented quickly," he said.

But Bush remains opposed to increasing the motor fuels taxes. Jackson said, "We will squeeze everything prudently, getting the most we can from the trust fund, but the President's budget does not propose new user fees."

Industry and state officials have proposed levels higher than the administration ins recommending. One option they advocate is indexing the fuels taxes to account for inflation. Mary Peters, head of the Federal Highway Administration, "The administration has not taken a position on indexing."