FUNDING: Senate panel sets U.S. DOT highway funding at FAST Act levels, but with $2.2B rescission

April 25, 2016

The full Senate can now take up the measure, which could eventually be negotiated with an appropriations bill that emerges from the House.

The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced a 2017 funding bill that would spend $77.9 billion on programs under the U.S. Department of Transportation, keeping the Highway Trust Fund's highway and transit accounts at levels authorized in the new five-year FAST Act.

The Senate bill would also increase the USDOT's TIGER grant program to $525 million from $500 million this year. It would increase TIGER's rural projects setaside to 30 percent from 20 percent now, and cut the maximum share that can go to any state to 10 percent from 20 percent now, Eno Transportation Weekly reported.

The appropriations bill would also rescind $2.211 billion for the coming year in state DOTs' unobligated highway contract authority, and require that the cuts be applied in some federal highway programs that are most widely used by the states.

For USDOT discretionary accounts, the bill would provide $16.9 billion, which is $1.7 billion down from this year. As expected, the measure rejected a proposal from President Obama to raise USDOT funding by $17.9 billion and pay for it would a per-barrel tax on crude oil.

The Federal Aviation Administration would receive $16.4 billion, or $131.6 million more than enacted for 2016. The appropriators also used a report released with its bill to sharply criticize efforts in Congress to spin off air traffic control from the FAA.

The bill's rail section would provide the Federal Railroad Administration with $1.7 billion, up $76 million from this year and continues service for all current routes. The Maritime Administration, which supports U.S. shipyards and marine highways that aim to pull more freight off roads and rail lines, would see an $86 million funding increase to $485 million.

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