Federal Budget Sets Up Showdown on Transportation

Both houses of Congress have started moving on a Fiscal Year 2014 budget bill which funds transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The choice is clear. The Senate’s version of the T-HUD appropriations bill invests more in rail, transit, and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants — and it appears to have broader, bipartisan support. The House’s bill takes a slash-and-burn approach. The Transportation for America campaign has called for action in support of the Senate’s bill, saying on its blog that the Senate’s version of the bill is the only one to “face up to reality.”

Both bills provide the amounts of highway and transit formula funds required by MAP-21, but diverge greatly when it comes to other programs.


Here’s a quick look at some of the key transportation provisions in the bill:

Rail: The Senate’s bill would provide a healthy $1.45 billion for Amtrak, $15 million of which would go toward design work on the Gateway Program to improve rail capacity across the Hudson River. It would also provide $100 million in competitive rail grants. The House’s bill fails to include the rail grants, and provides just $950 million for Amtrak, nearly one-third lower than Amtrak received in this year’s budget and which CEO Joe Boardman said would “put every one of our services at risk.”

Transit: The Senate bill would provide $1.94 billion for the New Starts transit construction program, compared to only $1.82 billion in the House bill.

TIGER: The Senate’s bill provides $550 million for the popular TIGER program, which funds projects with a clear connection to economic development and tends to benefit freight, complete streets and transit-oriented development. The House’s bill not only cuts TIGER funding to zero in FY2014, but it also rescinds $237 million in awards from this year which haven’t been given out yet.

Bridge repair: The Senate’s bill creates a new $500 million Bridges in Critical Corridors program which would be administered by USDOT, while the House bill does not include this new initiative.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 73-26 to begin debate on its bill. The House is further behind, but took a procedural step yesterday agreeing on a rule for debate.

Both bills face an uphill battle to becoming law as is. But support for multimodal transportation now would send a message to lawmakers as the budget process and debate continues.

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