DOT bill increases highway funding

News AASHTO Journal December 10, 2004
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The $57.7 billion FY 2005 spending bill for the Department of Transportation increases both highway and transit spending for FY 2004, raising the highway obligation limitation from $33.6 billion in FY 2004 to $34.4 billion and increasing transit from $7.265 billion to $7.646 billion. The bill also includes some $4.4 billion in earmarks for highways, transit and airport projects.

It was anticipated that the appropriations bill would become final earlier this week as part of the omnibus appropriations bill. Funding for the Department of Transportation and other agencies has been pieced together since the expiration of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30 with a series of short-term continuing resolutions.

Appropriations bills have traditionally included earmarks for member projects. However, in the absence of a new reauthorization bill for federal highway and transit programs, it appears that members of Congress turned to appropriators for projects that might otherwise have been included in the reauthorization. According to the Nov. 23 Transportation Weekly, the bill includes a total of 1,236 earmarks for highway or bridge projects, totaling some $1.923 billion.

The bill sets an obligation limitation for FY 2005 of $34.422 billion, which is less than either the House or Senate drafts, but $779 million more than FY 2004. However, $156 million is transferred to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and $1.2 billion is set aside for the earmarked projects in Section 117 of the bill. That would leave some $33 billion in obligation limitation to be distributed to the states and to the FHWA allocated and research programs.

The bill also contains a provision prohibiting the FHWA from using any FY 2005 funds for work to facilitate the eligibility of portions of the Interstate Highway System for designation under the register of historic places.

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