By David Bauer, executive vice president/advocacy, ARTBA

The Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) and Related Appropriations Subcommittee June 5 unanimously approved legislation that would boost federal highway investment by $1.8 billion in FY 2019. This growth would come on top of a $3.4 billion increase in FY 2018 and result in a 12.2 percent increase over the last two years.

The measure includes a combination of transportation investment increases stemming from the 2015 FAST Act surface transportation reauthorization law and the two-year funding agreement reached earlier this year that calls for at least $10 billion in supplemental infrastructure investments from the federal general fund. Transportation construction programs received a total of $4.85 billion from this agreement in FY 2018.

While the text of the legislation is not yet available, THUD Subcommittee Chairman Susan Collins’ (R-Maine) opening statement highlighted details about the bill’s content.

  • The measure would provide the full $900 million highway funding increase authorized by the FAST Act and then adds an additional $3.3 billion in general funds for a total highway investment level of $48.57 billion.
  • The Transit Capital Investment Grant Program, which supports heavy and light rail transit construction projects, would receive $2.6 billion–$300 million more than called for by the FAST Act.
  • The Airport Improvement Program would receive an additional $750 million from the federal general fund on top of the $3.35 billion previously authorized from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to support airport capital improvements.
  • The measure would provide $1 billion in BUILD Grants–$500 million less than in FY 2018, but $500 million more than FY 2017.

A summary of the Senate proposal and its comparison to previous years and authorized investment levels is below.

Subcommittee Chairman Collins emphasized that the additional resources from the general fund are not a replacement of existing programs and urged the Trump Administration and the congressional authorizing committees to work for a timely reauthorization of the FAST Act that ensures the long-term stability of the Highway Trust Fund.

The House Appropriations Committee May 23 approved an FY 2019 transportation funding measure that, among other things, fully funded the FAST Act’s authorization levels and provided an additional $5.25 in supplemental transportation funding.  By comparison the total additional resource in the Senate measure is $4.85 billion—the same level as the final FY 2018 bill.

While the popular narrative is that nothing is going to happen on infrastructure in 2018, the fact remains that the annual appropriations process for the current and coming fiscal years will likely provide nearly $10 billion in federal transportation infrastructure investment beyond what was anticipated at the beginning of the year.  These developments may be short of a $1 trillion infrastructure package, but they are the largest increases at the federal level since the 2009 economic stimulus package.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to act on the FY 2019 transportation appropriations bill June 7.