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October 31, 2019

Senate Passes FY2020 Transportation Spending Bill

By Matt Reiffer

Today the U.S. Senate passed their version of the annual spending bill for transportation programs for Fiscal Year 2020.  It was included in a four-bill package that was approved 84-9.

The Senate bill continued the trend from the last two years in supplementing traditional trust funds with additional investments under a new two-year budget agreement.  The bill fulfills FAST Act funding levels for highway programs at $46.4 billion from the Highway Trust Fund and adds an additional $2.7 billion from the General Fund: $1.25 billion for surface transportation block grants and railway-highway crossing safety improvement, $1.25 billion for bridge repairs.

A total of $13 billion is provided for Federal Transit Administration programs, fully funding FAST Act commitments and adding $560 million for transit infrastructure grants. The bill allocates nearly $2 billion for Capital Investment Grants, which is $547 million less that last year but sufficient to satisfy existing project funding agreements and advance new projects meeting eligibility requirements.  In addition, ACEC successfully supported an amendment that would prevent a 12% across-the-board cut to transit programs, which was triggered by a Treasury rule due to a shortfall of anticipated receipts into the Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.  The amendment preserved $1.2 billion in formula funding and was approved 82-11.

Rail programs are funded at $2.8 billion in the Senate bill, including $255 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements, $300 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair, and $2 billion for Amtrak, including $680 million for the Northeast Corridor.

For aviation, the bill maintains Airport Improvement Program spending from the Airport & Airways Trust Fund at $3.35 billion and adds $450 million in competitive airport grant funding from the General Fund.

The bill appropriates $1 billion for multi-modal project grants (TIGER/BUILD), an increase of $100 million above 2019, and provides $3.3 billion for Community Development Block Grants, consistent with the 2019 level.

The House of Representatives approved its version of the transportation spending bill earlier in the summer (see my previous message for details).  House and Senate negotiators will need to reconcile the differences in their respective proposals, likely combining several appropriations bills into one legislative package.  The current dispute centers around overall spending allocations across defense, homeland security, and non-defense programs, and in particular whether and how much to allocate to construction of the border wall.

The current short-term stopgap measure expires on November 21.  Another extension is likely, the duration of which is still under consideration.

Please email if you have any questions.

Matt Reiffer is ACEC's senior director of transportation programs.


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