As budget cutters work to find savings in the fiscal year 2006 budget, the Senate passed the Department of Transportation and related agencies appropriations bill by an overwhelming margin of 93 to 1. The bill carries a record funding level of $63.9 billion.
The bill includes $40.2 billion for federal-aid highways, which is about $4 billion more than the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) funding level for FY 2006 and includes $70 million for the Appalachian Highway System. The Transit program is funded at $8.2 billion or $562 million more than the Administration requested and $273 million less than passed by the House.
The Federal Aviation Administration is funded at $14.3 billion, which is lower than the House level of $15.1 billion, but higher than the Administration request of $13.8 billion. This funding includes $3.5 billion for the Airport Improvement Program.
Amtrak funding was set at $1.45 billion or an increase of $250 million over the fiscal year 2005 level. The Administration had requested $360 million.
An amendment was offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that would have rescinded funding for two bridges in Alaska, which were funded in the recently passed SAFETEA-LU legislation. The funding would have been redirected to pay for infrastructure costs associated with Hurricane Katrina. The amendment provoked sharp responses from Alaska GOP Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski and was ultimately defeated on a vote of 82 to 15 against passage. The bill now moves to what may prove to be a difficult conference to resolve the substantial differences in funding levels with the House.