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Advocacy / Industry News

December 20, 2019

Congress Passes DOT Appropriations Bill; Fully Funds FAST Act Authorizations for Highways and Transit

By Matt Reiffer

Congress has approved FY2020 appropriations for Department of Transportation and Housing & Urban Development programs. President Trump is expected to sign the bill today.

Here are the transportation highlights:

  • Highways
    • Fully funds the FAST Act authorization of $46.4 billion from the Highway Trust Fund.
    • Adds $2.166 billion more from the General Fund, of which $781 million is to be apportioned to the states by formula for surface transportation block grants and $1.15 billion is designated for rehabilitation or replacement of deficient bridges, distributed by formula according to the proportion of bridge deck area in poor condition.
  • Transit
    • Fully funds the FAST Act authorization of $10.15 billion for transit formula funding from the Highway Trust Fund.
    • Adds a $510 million supplement from the General Fund for transit infrastructure.
    • Provides $1.978 billion for Capital Investment Grants, a decrease from FY’19 but enough to fully fund projects with existing grant agreements and new start, small start, and core capacity projects in the FTA pipeline.
  • Rail
    • Increases Amtrak funding to $2 billion, including $700 million for the Northeast Corridor.
    • Allocates $200 million for Federal-State Partnership State of Good Repair grants, a decrease of $200 million, and $325 million for rail infrastructure and safety grants, an increase of $70 million above 2019.
  • Aviation
    • Preserves Airport Improvement Program from the Airport & Airways Trust Fund at $3.35 billion.
    • Adds $400 million in competitive airport grant funding from the General Fund.
    • Delivers more than $3 billion for FAA Facilities & Equipment.
    • Provides $1 billion for multimodal surface transportation discretionary grants, an increase of $100 million including highways, transit, passenger and freight rail, and port infrastructure, to be evenly divided between urban and rural areas.
  • Ports
    • Funds port infrastructure grants at $225 million.

The bill also provides $3.425 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, a slight increase above the FY’19 level.

Click here for a summary from the House Appropriations Committee.

One other item of note:

ACEC was successful in modifying problematic language that had been included in the earlier House version of the bill asking for a flawed cost comparison study of contracting out for engineering and design services by State DOTs. 

ACEC worked with the committees to explain our concerns with the earlier provision, which would not have fully captured all DOT administration and overhead costs or accounted for all the other programmatic reasons that DOTs may need to contract out for services.  The final bill now directs the Government Accountability Office to “report on how State DOTs complete engineering and design work for projects using Federal funds including, but not limited to, a holistic comparison of the decisions to use private contractors versus State employees.” 

The final provision is much improved and fulfills our requests that any report be fully inclusive of all costs for DOTs and firms, and that the study include other factors besides cost that impact decisions to contract out. 

ACEC will be in a good position to work with the committee staff and the GAO to provide input on the content and direction of the study as it moves forward.

Matt Reiffer is ACEC’s Senior Director Transportation Programs.

All comments to blog posts will be moderated by ACEC staff.

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December 20, 2019



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