Senate Transportation Bill Trumps the House Version

Senate panel restores funds for Transportation over House version

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development on Tuesday approved a fiscal-year 2018 appropriations bill that would provide funding for Amtrak's long-distance routes.  

Funds Provided For:

In Millions US $

TIGER: Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery $550  
Federal Railroad Administration $1,974  
Intercity Passenger (Amtrak)   $1,600
Safety, Operations + R&D   $250
Other   $124
Federal Transit Administration $12,000   
Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act   $9,700
Capital Investment Grants 'New Starts'   $2,100
Other   $200

The proposal slots $1.6 billion for the national intercity passenger railroad's Northeast Corridor and national network. The funds would enable Amtrak to continue service for all current routes, according to a press release issued by the subcommittee. The funds for Amtrak would be part of a $1.974 billion package for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The bill also provides $250 million for FRA safety and operations, as well as research and development activities. 

Unlike a recent proposal by the U.S. House of Representatives' appropriations committee that would eliminate funds for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, the Senate subcommittee's bill would provide $550 million for the program. That figure represents a $50 million increase from the FY2017 enacted level. Additionally, the Senate subcommittee's proposal would provide $12 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, marking a $285 million decrease from FY2017 enacted levels. 

However, the bill provides $9.7 billion for transit formula grants consistent with the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act. Furthermore, the bill slots $2.1 billion for the FTA's Capital Investment Grants (also known as New Starts). Those dollars would fully fund all current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects.

Senator Susan Collins"This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise, and makes the necessary investments in our nation's infrastructure, helps to meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable among us, and provides funding for economic development projects that create jobs in our communities," said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the subcommittee."

The full Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the measure soon. The subcommittee's bill drew praise from the National Association of Railroad Passengers, which hailed it as "a feat that is all the more striking for its rejection of the Trump administration's calls to slash spending and eliminate long-distance trains."

For more on the job impacts and increase in private funding resulting from transportation funding, please see our article; "Priming the Pump"