A safe, efficient, and convenient transportation system is integral to the health of our economy and quality of life. Our nation's vast transportation system of airways, railways, roads, pipelines, transit, and waterways has served this need, yet it is under considerable strain from (1) increasing congestion, (2) the large costs to maintain and improve it, and (3) the human cost of over 44,000 people killed and over 2.5 million injured each year in transportation-related accidents. The Department of Transportation implements national transportation policy and administers most federal transportation programs. For fiscal year 2008, the department has requested $67 billion to carry out these and other activities. While the department carries out some activities directly, such as employing about 15,000 air traffic controllers to make certain that planes stay a safe distance apart, it does not have direct control over the vast majority of activities that it funds, such as local decisions on the priority and placement of airports, public transit, and roads. In other cases, such as railways and pipelines, the infrastructure is owned and operated by industry. This statement presents GAO's views on major transportation challenges facing Congress and the department. It is based on GAO products, including recommendations made, and the products of others.
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