Senate appropriations committee approves FY 2006 transportation funding

News AASHTO Journal July 27, 2005
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Senate appropriators recently reported out a fiscal year 2006 spending bill that would increase highway funding to $40.1 billion, an increase of $5.7 billion from the current appropriation level. The bill would also boost transit spending to $8.2 billion, an increase of $572 million over current levels.

The transportation funding is included in the massive $136.6 billion appropriation for transportation, treasury, judiciary and housing and urban development.

Observers were surprised by the magnitude of the highway spending increase, which exceeds the highway funding authorization level now being considered by House and Senate conferees on H.R. 3. The level is $5.2 billion higher than requested by the Administration and the $36.3 billion proposed by the House appropriations bill.

The figure also includes $70 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) nets the next largest share of the Department of Transportation appropriation, with funding set at $14.257 billion. Of that, $8.176 is slated for FAA operations, which is $463 million more than FY 2005 enacted levels. According to the subcommittee, $24,875 million is set for hiring and training of new air traffic controllers; $90.5 million for contract tower program that provides air traffic control services to airports that do not have their own towers.

FAA funding for the Airport Improvement Program is targeted at $3.5 billion; $2.4 billion is slated for facilities and equipment through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

Senate appropriators boosted the funding for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) over FY 2005 levels by $562 million and $427 million above the Administration’s FY 2006 request by approving $8.2 billion. FTA formula totals top $4.3 billion, 8.9% increase over FY 2005 levels.

Other FY 2006 program amounts and FY 2005 totals include:

• Urbanized area formula, $3.7 billion, which is 3.5% more than FY 2005;

• Rural formula grants of $449.6 million, which is a 79.2% increase over FY 2005;

• Elimination of the clean fuels funding, which totaled $49.6 million in FY 2005;

• Alaska railroad funding increased 13.1% to $5.44 million;

• Fixed-guideway modernization amounting to $1.3 billion, an increase of 8.5%;

• Planning and research funding of $156.28 million, an increase of 23.1%; and

• Job access and reverse commute grants amounting to $121.83 million, a decrease of 1.8%.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received a $321 million boost in funding over FY 2005, netting a $779 million appropriation. Also included in the appropriation is $490 for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; $16.284 million for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp.; $323 for the Maritime Administration; $62.5 million for the Office of Inspector General; and $23 million for the Surface Transportation Board.

Late last month, the House approved a FY 2006 appropriation bill calling for $37 billion in Federal-Aid Highway spending; $14.427 billion for the FAA and $8.482 billion for the FTA. Representatives bucked the House Committee on Appropriations and included an extra $626 million for Amtrak, bringing the passenger rail carrier’s suggested appropriation for FY 2006 to nearly $1.2 billion.

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