Update: President Trump signed this measure late Dec. 27.

By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA

Federal transportation programs will receive nearly $4 billion in supplemental transportation spending, above and beyond levels authorized under current surface transportation law. The additional funding was passed Dec. 22 as a part of a year-end omnibus spending agreement that will fund government programs through Fiscal Year (FY) 2021.

The core federal highway programs will be funded at $46.35 billion, which will be distributed largely by formula to the states. The failure by Congress and the Trump administration to enact a new surface transportation reauthorization law, resulting in a one-year extension of existing programs at FY 2020 funding levels, led appropriators to keep core highway and public transit funding static for FY 2021.

A breakdown of supplemental funding levels over the past four years shows:

Though supplemental funding for FY 2021 is slightly less than FY 2020, it is the fourth consecutive year Congress opted to provide additional money to transportation programs. Supplemental spending provided over the past four years totals nearly $20 billion beyond what was previously authorized for highway, public transportation and airport capital improvements.

The completion of the FY 2021 spending bill marks the second year in a row transportation spending levels are finalized before the end of the calendar year.  While still technically delayed, this is a welcome pattern after five years of incomplete spending bills heading into the new year.  Timely completion will give state departments of transportation certainty for planning purposes heading into 2021.

See ARTBA coverage of other Omnibus/COVID Relief News:

The supplemental spending measure was passed as part of the massive year-end bill that also contained COVID relief legislation that would provide aid to a range of transportation programs, including $10 billion to state departments of transportation.  Learn more about aid for state DOTs.

Small businesses will receive additional support through renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and clarity around tax deductibility of PPP loans was also provided in the COVID relief package. Learn more about small business aid.

The year-end legislation also reauthorizes legislation that supports marine transportation infrastructure programs and would finally enable the spending of funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Learn more about the Water Resources Development Act.