By Dave Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

Congress continued this week to make progress on completing an FY 2017 transportation appropriations bill that would increase highway investment by $900 million and public transportation funding by at least $500 million.  The Senate May 19 approved 89-8 its version of the transportation investment measure.  The House Transportation Housing & Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee May 18 also unanimously approved its proposed transportation funding bill.

The two plans largely adhere to the investment levels called for in 2015’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.  The only difference is that both proposals would provide slightly more than the $2.3 billion the FAST Act authorizes for transit capital investment grants—Congress provided $124 million less than the FAST Act recommended in FY 2016. The measures also continue Airport Improvement Program (AIP) investment at the $3.35 billion level that has been in place since FY 2012 and funding for the Obama Administration’s TIGER grant program that supports a variety of multi-modal transportation projects.  Specific investment levels for the House and Senate plans are listed in the table below.

Both the House and Senate measures also include identical common sense limitations—sought for the second consecutive year by ARTBA and AGC of America—on an Obama Administration push to allow state and local governments to impose geographic, economic and other hiring preferences on federal-aid highway and public transportation projects.  The measures would allow the U.S. Department of Transportation to approve such hiring preferences only if the recipient agency certifies: the existence of a sufficient qualified labor pool in the jurisdiction; that no existing workers would be displaced; and no planned projects would be delayed due to associated cost increases.  While there is still work to do, inclusion of this important provision in both chamber’s version of the transportation funding bill puts us in great position to continue the certification requirements in 2017.

The next stop for the House bill is consideration May 24 by the full House Appropriations Committee.  Senate action is now completed until the two chambers begin the process of reconciling the two proposals.