By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
UPDATE: The House and Senate each passed the measure. President Donald Trump signed the bill May 5.
A government-wide spending agreement announced May 1 by congressional leaders would boost federal highway and public transportation investment by a combined $1.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2017. The programs have been operating under a series of short-term extensions that have maintained last year’s funding levels since FY 2017 began Oct. 1, 2016. The increased resources will be deployed during the final five months of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
The measure would increase highway investment by $900 million to $43.3 billion—the amount authorized by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act surface transportation law. It would also provide a total of $12.4 billion for the public transportation program—$400 million more than the FAST Act directed. Among this boost is a $223 million increase for the Capital Investment Grants Program, which supports transit construction projects. The Airport Improvement Program would once again be held at $3.35 billion.
ARTBA and our Transportation Construction Coalition allies have been urging congressional leaders to fully fund the FAST Act highway and transit investment levels since the end of FY 2016, including a Jan. 27 letter to all members of Congress.
The budget agreement is also notable in that it did not include the transportation-related spending cuts called for by the Trump Administration in its FY 2018 budget proposal. Congress provided $500 million for the national infrastructure investment (TIGER) grant program—the same level as FY 2016. The Trump budget calls for eliminating this program.
The package also includes language directing the Secretary of Transportation to fund a number of transit construction projects once they have received full funding grant agreements. The Trump budget proposes eliminating the transit Capital Investment Grants Program once all existing full funding grant agreements are fulfilled. While the Trump budget is for FY 2018 and the measure released today provides funding for FY 2017, these will be issues to watch once Congress begins the FY 2018 process in the coming months.