By Dean Franks, vice president, congressional affairs, ARTBA

The Senate Appropriations Committee July 27 approved, 31-0, an FY 2018 U.S. Department of Transportation funding bill that, among other things, would increase the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) by $4.00 per originating ticket to $8.50. It fully funds Highway Trust Fund-supported highway and public transportation programs at the FAST Act authorized levels. The Senate bill also would increase funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides direct federal aid for airport infrastructure improvements, by $250 million to $3.6 billion. AIP investment has been held at $3.35 billion since 2012.

The PFC is imposed by airports on departing flights and the revenues are used for infrastructure improvements at the airport where the fee is collected.  While the PFC is a local charge, it has been capped by federal law at $4.50 per originating ticket since 2000.  Commercial airlines are opposed to the PFC increase and lobbied unsuccessfully to remove the provision.

The ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) urged the committee in a July 26 letter to include the PFC increase in its final bill.

The Senate’s FY 2018 transportation funding measure would provide $44.2 billion for the highway program—a $900 million increase—and $12.1 billion for the transit program—$285 million less than the FY 2017 level. Included in the bill’s public transportation funding is $2.1 billion for the Capital Investment Grant Program, which supports transit construction projects.  The Trump administration had requested only $1.2 billion for the program and proposed limiting the funds to only projects that had a full funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration. The Senate proposal, however, would fund existing agreements and all those expected to enter agreements in 2018, but is $170 million less than was authorized by the FAST Act.

The Senate measure also includes $550 million for the TIGER grant program, which provides communities grants for all modes of transportation projects.  The Trump budget proposed eliminating TIGER funding.

Now that both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have passed their respective FY 2018 spending bills, the next step will be floor action, likely after the August congressional recess.  ARTBA will continue to push for increased highway, transit and aviation investment and the Senate PFC provision as the process moves forward.

A comparison of the Senate measure and its House counterpart is below.

FY 2017 Enacted FY 2018 House FY 2018 Senate
Highways $43.27 billion $44.23 billion $44.23 billion
Transit Formula Grants $9.73 billion $9.73 billion $9.73 billion
Transit Capital Investment Grants $2.4 billion $1.75 billion $2.13 billion
AIP $3.35 billion $3.35 billion $3.6 billion
TIGER Grants $500 million $0 $550 million