Transportation Funding Highlights From the Final FY 2011 Federal Spending Bill

Below is a summary from the American Planning Association (APA) on the recently passed 24-week continuing resolution that funds the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011, which addresses TIGER II grants, Highway & Transit funding and decreases in the high speed rail program. A brief update of the status on negotiations towards a new long-term surface transportation bill is also included.

All major [Federal] transportation programs received cuts or rescissions in the final [24-week continuing resolution] spending bill. With a reauthorization effort expected to begin over the next month and the administration pushing for a $556 billion, six-year investment plan, this bill is a weak launching point.

The TIGER program — part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities joint venture with EPA and HUD — received $528 million for FY11 grants. This program was authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with $1.5 billion in funding. In FY10, TIGER II received $600 million, with $35 million specifically set aside for planning grants. The $528 million available for FY11 does not contain this setaside. It is unsurprising that TIGER continued to receive funding, as it is generally considered a successful program by members on both sides of the aisle. The multi-modal, discretionary style of TIGER grants has received enough positive feedback that proposals for a National Infrastructure Bank have used it as a model. The administration proposed a $30 billion bank as part of its six-year reauthorization plan and legislation to establish a bank has been introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and in the House by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

Overall, transit programs received deeper FY11 cuts than highway programs. A $293 million program of earmarks has been cut from the Federal Highway Administration budget, and $3.2 billion in contract authority from FY 2010, which includes $630 million in earmarks, has been rescinded. Highway funding otherwise remains stable from FY10 to FY11. Transit funding, however, is reduced by $991 million below FY10. This includes a $400 million reduction for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts). New Starts received $2 billion in FY10, but only $1.6 billion for FY11. The final spending bill also rescinds $280 million of the FY10 funding.

High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail, a top priority for the administration, is among the hardest hit programs in the budget. The final spending bill does not provide any funding for this program, and it rescinds $400 million from FY10 appropriations. This amounts to a total cut of $2.9 billion. Amtrak will receive approximately $1.5 billion in FY11 after incurring a $78 million reduction in Capital and Debt service grants from FY10 levels.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is actively working on a reauthorization bill, as is the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The administration released an outline in its FY12 Budget Request, but has withheld a more detailed plan until Congress moves forward. The big sticking point is how to generate enough revenue for a six-year bill. Expected revenue from the federal gas tax is not expected to cover a bill the size of SAFETEA-LU, which provided $244 billion over six years. If the final spending bill for FY11 gives any indication, highways continue to take priority over transit and the administration’s signature initiative — high speed rail — is in jeopardy.

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