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U.S. DOT says Republican budget plan would cut rail inspections, shut air traffic towers

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A Norfolk Southern train rests near the University of North Carolina’s energy generation plant, after delivering coal to the facility, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Wednesday said a Republican budget cut proposal would shut down 375 federally-staffed and contract-run air traffic control towers around the country and result in 7,500 fewer rail safety inspection days.

Overall, it said the Republican plan, which would sharply reduce budget spending in exchange for a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, would reduce funding for U.S. transit and highway infrastructure projects by nearly $5.2 billion.

The White House has said President Joe Biden would veto the legislation, and has called on Congress to raise the debt limit without conditions.

President Biden and his administration have pushed back hard against the proposal from Republican House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which would implement $4.5 trillion in spending cuts with a $1.5 trillion increase in the $31.4 trillion U.S. debt limit.

“House Republicans’ proposal would slash funding for programs the American people depend on in their everyday lives, including funding that’s vital for ensuring transportation safety and improving our country’s infrastructure,” DOT said in a factsheet.

It said it estimated that cutting critical programs by 22% would lead to nearly 7,500 fewer rail safety inspection days and over 30,000 fewer miles of track inspected annually, at a time when lawmakers are calling for more inspections in the wake of the Norfolk Southern derailment disaster.

It said the plan would also shut down services at some 375 of about 550 air traffic control towers, potentially increasing security wait times at Transportation Security Administration check points by over two hours.

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