How Will House Allocate 2012 Transportation Spending?

Posted by Larry Ehl on Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Transportation Issues Daily

The House draft appropriations bill (read the Subcommittee’s summary) was published late Wednesday and is scheduled to be acted on Thursday at 4pm (Eastern). The proposal reduces Amtrak operating subsidies by about 40%, provides zero funding for high-speed and intercity passenger rail capital grants, zero funding for a new TIGER program, and big reductions in grants for New and Small transit starts.

This sets up a likely battle with the Senate, where those programs are more popular. See Stage is set for Senate-House Battle on 2012 Spending published earlier today.

The impact of the proposal? Jeff Davis of Transportation Weekly notes:

This will result in a 34 percent cut in the federal-aid highways obligation limitation, from 2011′s $41.107 billion to an even $27 billion, and a 38 percent cut in mass transit formula and bus grants, from 2011′s $8.343 billion to $5.2 billion. These numbers are consistent with the House-passed Ryan budget plan and the reauthorization bill that House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman John Mica (R-FL) is drafting.

He also observes that the proposed transportation-housing budget of $55.15 billion is really a cut of about $3.35 billion from the “real” 2011 level, for technical budget reasons.

Here’s the summary from the Subcommittee’s news release:

“The bill includes $16.7 billion for the Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2012, which is $3 billion above last year’s level and $15.8 billion below the President’s request.

  • Highways – The bill provides $27.7 billion for the Federal Highway program – the highest amount supportable by the Highway Trust Fund for fiscal year 2012. The highway program still requires reauthorization to operate beyond September 2011, and the Committee is prepared to support a higher Highway Trust Fund spending level, should a new, multi-year authorization bill be enacted. The bill does not contain a rescission of highway contract authority from the states.
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – Included in the legislation is $12.6 billion for the FAA, an increase of $233 million over last year and $485 million below the President’s request. The bill fully funds the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), allowing the FAA to move forward with the next step in modernizing the nation’s air control and airport system, which will help ease congestion and reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace.
  • Rail – The Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.3 billion, which is $7 billion below the President’s request and $36 million above last year’s level. Of this amount, $1.1 billion is targeted to Amtrak, primarily for capital improvements to the nation’s rail lines. The bill also includes policy reforms for Amtrak, such as requiring overtime limits on Amtrak employees to reduce unnecessary costs, and reinstates a provision that prohibits federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of 50% or more off normal, peak fares. In addition, the bill does not include funding for High Speed Rail or Intercity Passenger Rail Service.
  • Transit – The bill contains a total of $1.8 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which is $1.9 billion below the President’s request and an increase of $169 million over last year. The legislation also provides $5.2 billion in state and local bus grants – the amount estimated to be available from the Mass Transit Account (trust fund) for fiscal year 2012. Like the highway program, the transit program still requires reauthorization to operate beyond September 2011, and the Committee is prepared to support a higher formula bus spending level should a new, multi-year authorization bill be enacted. The legislation also limits transit capital investments – only funding “Small Starts” projects and those projects that have signed Full-Funding Grant Agreements with the FTA prior to November 1, 2011. The legislation also includes language that prohibits new Full-Funding Grant Agreements if the project is more than 50% federally funded.
  • Safety – The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes $731.1 million in both mandatory and discretionary funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – a decrease of $65.4 million below last year; $529.7 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – a decrease of $25.4 million below last year; and $182.9 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration – a decrease of $13.2 million below last year.

Larry Ehl is the founder and publisher of Transportation Issues Daily. In the public sector, Larry was Federal Relations Manager for Washington State DOT; Chief of Staff to US Senator Slade Gorton; and was twice elected to the Edmonds School Board.

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