BULLETIN: DOT making ‘serious mistake’ with cross-border program

| 1/4/2008

Friday, Jan. 4, 2008 – The lawmaker behind legislation that cut the funding of the cross-border program with Mexico says the move by the Bush administration to continue the program is both “arrogant and wrong.”

The Bush administration’s recent deflective move to keep the cross-border program with Mexico alive challenged the intent behind legislation signed into law that cut the program’s funding, many critics believe.

The Department of Transportation is continuing the program even though the funding cut was signed into law. In the announcement that the program was continuing, FMCSA officials noted that “the U.S. Department of Transportation will not establish any new demonstration programs with Mexico. The current cross-border trucking demonstration project – established in September – will continue to operate …”

In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat and the sponsor of the legislation that cut off the funding to the program, explained his intention behind the legislation.

“I asked the Senate Legislative Counsel, which drafted the provision on my behalf, for their interpretation. … The Senate Legislative Counsel maintains that the provision was ‘drafted to prohibit the use of funds for a demonstration program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond certain commercial zones,’ ” Dorgan wrote to Peters on Thursday, Jan. 3.

Dorgan’s letter pointed out that the Senate Legislative Counsel interpretation showed that the “legislative history in the Senate indicates (the legislation) was intended to preclude the carrying out of any demonstration program, including the pilot program put into effect in September 2007.”

With his intent behind the legislation clearly laid out, Dorgan closed his letter by reminding Peters that the DOT is not above the law.

“The Department will be making a serious mistake if it believes it is not required to abide by this new legislation,” Dorgan wrote.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor