BUDGET CALLS FOR ELIMINATION OF ICC FUNDS

BUDGET CALLS FOR ELIMINATION OF ICC FUNDS

Renewed calls for eliminating the Interstate Commerce Commission, ending Amtrak rail subsidies and completing trucking deregulation highlight President Reagan's surface transportation budget proposals for fiscal 1989.

Proposed outlays for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, involve few substantive changes in other highway, rail and trucking activities. But the Department of Transportation budget does redirect some truck safety funds within the agency to support a new crackdown on truck drivers violating licensing laws.Broadly, President Reagan's new budget estimates DOT will spend $26.4 billion in the 1989 fiscal year, up slightly from $26.3 billion this year.

More than half of the department's spending, about $13.5 billion in 1989, will be earmarked for the construction and maintenance of federal, state and local highways. The new budget estimates the department will spend $261 million more on highway programs over current year levels.

President Reagan repeated his call for the elimination of the Interstate Commerce Commission, although its abolition is tied to the passage of legislation completing trucking deregulation.

Specifically, the budget says the administration will propose an end to economic controls for interstate motor freight carriers, household goods freight forwarders, property brokers, buses and water carriers by Oct. 1, 1988.

Remaining ICC transportation chores would be transferred to the departments of Justice and Transportation or to the Federal Trade Commission.

Congress recently has shown little interest in further deregulation, however, and passage of a broad economic reform package is not likely this year.

The proposed elimination of subsidies to the National Railroad Passenger Corp. - Amtrak - will leave the Federal Railroad Administration with a 1989 budget outlay of $26 million. Current year spending, including Amtrak payments, is expected to reach $527.4 million.

Administration efforts to cut Amtrak funding have failed in the past and the plan remains politically volatile, especially in the Northeast. The federal government has provided the national rail passenger system with more than $13 billion in subsidies since 1970. Those subsidies averaged about $30 per passenger in 1987.

The White House budget also continues the drive to eliminate almost all mass transit funding, including grants that promote the construction of local transit systems. The administration also would end operating subsidies to large and medium sized cities, but not small urban and rural areas.

Total mass transit funding described in the budget would match receipts

from the penny-a-gallon of the motor fuel tax dedicated to mass transit.

DOT's motor carrier safety programs, which regulate truckers through in- house audits and roadside vehicle inspections, show projected outlays of $24.3 million for fiscal 1989, up from $22 million this year.

The additional funding is necessary to support the new commercial driver's license law approved by the Congress in 1986. DOT will take about $425,000

from the Motor Carrier Safety Grant program and redirect it toward research and implementation of the uniform driver licensing rules.

Total spending on motor carrier safety grants to the states for fiscal 1989 is expected to rise to $48.6 million from $40.4 million. The increase reflects a portion of an additional $10 million in budget authority for fiscal 1989 required by Congress in an earlier law.

The grant program gives the states money to enforce federal truck safety standards and similar state statutes. DOT encourages uniform safety rules to ease enforcement and make compliance simpler for truckers.

Overall spending on federal railroad safety programs for fiscal year 1989 is expected to match current year levels. But the Federal Railroad Administration has funds to hire three new supervisory field inspectors to better manage safety programs.

Federal railroad safety efforts will continue to focus on limiting drug and alcohol abuse in rail operations.