Transit Funding Cut Addressed
On Oct. 31, the Senate approved a package of four appropriations bills including its version of the FY2020 funding package for US DOT programs. The Senate bill, like the House bill passed in June, includes the full $46.365 billion FAST Act obligation limitation for the federal-aid highway program, a $1.1 billion increase over 2019. In addition, the bill includes a supplemental $2.7 billion discretionary appropriations for highway programs and an additional $560 million for transit grants (see chart below). Since none of the 12 FY 2020 appropriations bills were signed into law by the end of FY 2019, government programs including those of US DOT, have been operating under a Continuing Resolution that funds programs through November 21 at the FY 2019 level. It is likely that a compromise DOT funding bill can be approved before November 21 with the increased funding levels. While the Senate bill fixes a budgetary limit provision that, if left unaddressed, could lead to a 12 percent across-the-board cut in transit formula grants from the levels authorized in the FAST Act, it did not address a pending $7.6 billion rescission in highway contract authority.
The Senate bill provides a $1.0 billion appropriation for BUILD grants, the same as the House and the same as in 2019. Transit formula grants total $10.1 billion, from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund, consistent with the FAST Act. One of the larger differences between the House and Senate bills is the transit Capital Improvement Grant (CIG) program, which gets a $1.978 billion appropriation under the Senate bill, $324 million less than under the House bill. The Senate bill maintains flexibility for State Departments of Transportation to repurpose some unused prior year project funding for current infrastructure projects and provides an additional $1.25 billion is for the Surface Transportation Block Grant funds and for the elimination of hazards at railway-highway grade crossings, and $1.25 billion is for bridge repairs in small states with high rates of bridges not in good condition. The Senate bill also provides an additional $450 million for the FAA Airport Improvement grant program $50 million less than the House bill.