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AASHTO Journal

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves THUD Funding Bill

On June 7 the Senate Appropriations Committee formally advanced the Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Appropriations Act or "THUD bill" by a unanimous vote of 31-0.

The bill provides $71.4 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies; monies that are $1.1 billion above Fiscal Year 2018 enacted levels.

Where transportation is concerned, year-over-year funding levels was lowered slightly. The USDOT's $26.6 billion in discretionary appropriations for Fiscal Year 2019 is actually $698 million below the Fiscal Year 2018 enacted level, according to the committee. 

However, the bill also authorizes $46 billion to be transferred from the highway trust fund to the Federal-aid Highways Program, consistent with the Fixing America's Surface Transportation or "FAST" Act. In keeping with the two-year budget agreement's emphasis on infrastructure investments, the bill provides $3.3 billion in additional funding for highway programs from the general fund, including $90 million to eliminate hazards at railway-highway grade crossings and $800 million for bridge repairs. The bill maintains flexibility for state departments of transportation to repurpose some stagnant funding earmarked to old projects.

SusanCollins.jpg"This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise. I worked closely with Ranking Member [Sen. Jack] Reed [D-Rhode Island] in drafting this bill, and we received input from 70 Senators with more than 800 requests, all of which we carefully evaluated," said Sen. Susan Collins (seen at left), R-Maine, chairman of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, in a statement. "The funding in this legislation will allow us to invest in our nation's infrastructure, while fully funding the renewal of housing assistance for low-income seniors and other vulnerable populations, such as teenagers and veterans who are homeless."

However, during the markup hearing for the THUD bill on June 5, Sen. Collins warned that its discretionary monies should not viewed as a long-term "replacement" for transportation funding needs.

"I want to make clear that these funding levels are meant to supplement funding from the highway trust fund and should not be viewed as a replacement for the long-term sustained funding needed from the highway trust fund for our state and local governments," she noted during the June 5 hearing. "I would encourage the administration to reauthorize the FAST Act and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the highway trust fund."

The breakdown of the Fiscal Year 2019 THUD bill includes:

  • $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development or "BUILD" grants, previously known as TIGER grants.
  • $956 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $667 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and $275 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to help address safety concerns related to recent pipeline and crude oil by rail accidents.
  • $17.7 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration, which fully funds all air traffic control personnel, including more than 14,000 air traffic controllers, and more than 25,000 engineers, maintenance technicians, safety inspectors, and operational support personnel.
  • $1 billion for FAA Next Generation Air Transportation Systems or "NextGen" programs and not less than $168 million for the Contract Towers program. The bill also provides $750 million in additional funding for airport improvements.
  • $2.8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, which includes $1.9 billion to Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and National Network, continuing service for all current routes, along with $262 million for FRA safety and operations, as well as research and development activities.
  • $255 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants program, $300 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, and $10 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants.
  • $13.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, with $9.9 billion shifted from the Mass Transit Account within the HTF to fund Transit formula grants, consistent with the FAST Act. In addition, the bill provides another $800 million from the general fund for transit infrastructure grants. The bill provides a total of $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants or "CIGs," fully funding all current Full Funding Grant Agreement or "FFGA" transit projects, as well as new projects that have met the rigorous criteria of CIG.
  • $818 million for the Maritime Administration to increase the productivity, efficiency, and safety of the nation's ports and intermodal water and land transportation, along with $300 million for the Maritime Security Program.
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