House spending bill would cut DOT funding by 8%
- The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has released a 2018 spending bill that would reduce Department of Transportation funding by almost 8% from current levels but could give as much as $900 million to the Amtrak-led Gateway Program and the New York–New Jersey Hudson River Tunnel project, according to Bloomberg BNA.
- The bill also axes Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which were allotted $500 million in 2017. President Donald Trump's 2018 budget also called for their elimination.
- The bill would give the USDOT discretionary funds in the amount of $17.8 billion, which is $1.5 billion more than requested in Trump's budget request.
Although the House bill wouldn't cut the DOT budget as severely as Trump's proposal, the elimination of TIGER grants and the proposed 8% drop in funding still concern those in the construction industry who expected a bump in infrastructure spending under the new administration. While Trump has proposed investing $200 billion to spur $1 trillion in total infrastructure investment, a concrete bill is still up in the air and is likely to be delayed until 2018.
The House bill would also bar contributions to high-speed rail projects in California, including the California High-Speed Rail Authority's $64 billion bullet train project. This prohibition would also apply to a Federal Railroad Administration matching funds program for high-speed rail.
The California high-speed rail project, now under way, has been a lightning rod for criticism amid questions about its financial and logistical feasibility, which were intensified by a series of Los Angeles Times investigative reports during the last few years.
California Republicans, who want an audit of the bullet train project before providing funding for any program that could benefit it, tried to pressure Trump administration officials to deny federal money for a Caltrain electrification project, but Transportation Secretary Chao approved a promised $647 million grant with the caveat that future money was not guaranteed.
The House bill would allow $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be used for the Federal-Aid Highways Program and give $1 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration’s modernization efforts.
The USDOT has announced two Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants in the last few month — $230 million this month and $527.8 million in June. AIP funds are earmarked for airport infrastructure repairs and upgrades at airports across the country. The amounts allocated to each airport are dependent on passenger volume.
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