Tuesday, July 11, 2017

House Appropriations Committee THUD bill: TIGER eliminated; preserves other grants

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The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill July 10.


The bill reduces total discretionary spending, eliminates certain grant programs, but also preserves funds for the Northeast Corridor and transit.

The proposed bill reflects a total allocation of $56.5 billion in discretionary spending – $1.1 billion below fiscal year 2017 and $8.6 billion above the president's request.

"Now more than ever, it is critical to our economy and to our quality of life to have safe and well-functioning transportation infrastructure. This bill makes investments in essential highway, air, rail and maritime programs that will keep our people and our goods moving efficiently," Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11) said. "In addition, it includes responsible funding to ensure communities across the nation have access to necessary community development funds, and to provide housing to those who need it the most – including the poor, elderly and disabled."

The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), which is $646 million below FY17 enacted levels, but $1.5 billion above the president's request. The committee says the bill provides $76.7 billion to improve and maintain the nation's transportation infrastructure and targets funding to programs and projects that will "increase efficiency, safety, reliability and quality of life for the traveling public, and that will help improve commerce and economic growth."

The bill would eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, but preserves $500 million–the amount authorized for the TIGER program in FY17 for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants. These grants would to "to eligible projects for which the environmental impact statement required under the National Environmental Policy Act and design work is already complete at the time of the grant application review, or to projects that address major critical assets which have conditions that pose a substantial risk now or in the future to the reliability of train service."

The committee said this $500 million would "address some of the $38 billion backlog on the Northeast Corridor – needs that must be addressed simply to sustain current rail services." The bill's language has means more than $900 million is allocated for the Gateway Program, without having specifically named the program.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is funded at $2.2 billion; $360 million over the FY17 enacted level and $1.1 billion above the president's request. The bill provides a total of $1.4 billion for Amtrak, of which $328 million is for the Northeast Corridor grants and $1.1 billion is to support the national network. Rail safety and research programs are funded at $258.3 million, equal to the FY17 enacted level, which will fund inspectors and training, plus maintenance and safety investments to the physical rail infrastructure.

In addition to the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, the bill appropriates $25 million to the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants, a reduction of $43 million from the FY17 enacted level.

The bill also places funding roadblocks in the path of the California high-speed rail project by prohibiting funding the project, the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and for FRA to administer a grant agreement with the CHSRA that contains a tapered match. The bill prohibits the Surface Transportation Board from taking action regarding the construction of high-speed rail in California unless the board has jurisdiction over the entire project.

Regarding the transit side of things, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is provided $11.75 billion, $662 million below the FY17 enacted level and $526 million above the president's request, in total budgetary resources. Capital Investment Grants are funded at $1.75 billion, "Full Funding Grant Agreement" transit projects receive $1 billion, core capacity projects receive $145 million in the bill, $182 million is included to fund all state and local "Small Starts" projects and $400 million is included for new projects that provide both public transportation and inner-city passenger rail service.

The bill is expected to undergo subcommittee markup July 11.