House appropriators make deep cuts to transportation for 2012September 8, 2011
By Stephen Lee Davis
The House Appropriations Committee released their draft bill for 2012 spending in the transportation program, and the cuts are severe, with some key programs facing more of a reduction than others.
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending bill, or THUD, as its called, contained similar cuts for transit and road/bridge spending that we saw in Rep. Ryan’s budget earlier this year. Transit and highway spending both get cut proportionally, around 34 percent.
While cuts are proportional in those main two areas, other areas and innovative programs face deeper cuts.The innovative TIGER grants, TIGGER grants and high-speed rail programs are cut entirely.
The New Starts transit program, which essentially funds all new transit system construction, gets cut to $1.55 billion down from $2 billion in FY10. In addition, a policy tweak is made that requires state or local funds to make up more than 50 percent of any new grant agreements. Or put another way, the feds will no longer cover more than half of any New Starts transit project, exacerbating an existing gap between the share the government will pay for transit vs. highway projects. (Highway projects get around 80 percent of their funds from the federal government.)
Existing passenger rail service faces deep cuts of its own. Amtrak’s capital budget (new rolling stock, new lines, equipment, etc.) is cut by $24 million, but the operations budget is where Amtrak takes a big hit, going from $563 million to $227 million. On top of that, an important policy change will prevent Amtrak from using any of their operating funds on state-supported lines — lines where a state has partnered with Amtrak to increase passenger rail service and ridership. To put that change in perspective, in 2010 9 million rides were taken on state-supported routes.
Amtrak State-Supported routes, from the T&I Committee “A New Direction” report (pdf).
Another notable policy change is for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The bill prohibits HUD from using any funding for anything related to the Sustainable Communities Partnership with DOT and the EPA. Essentially, this bill would require HUD to stop coordinating with the other two agencies and go back to the outdated siloed approach on housing, ignoring the effects on and the impacts of transportation and the environment.
The silver lining is that it’s unlikely that this appropriations bill will make it through the full process to passage anytime soon. Instead, Congress will likely pass a continuing resolution (CR) before September 30 to stop the government from shutting down — which means at least for a while, the 2012 funding levels could be more in line with last year’s levels, preventing some of these cuts. Whether it passes or not, it’s important to note that this is the House appropriators opening position on transportation funding for next year.
Here’s a full list with details on the cuts.
- Cuts highway funding from ~$41B to $27B
- Cuts transit funding (excluding New Starts) from $8.3B to $5.3B
- Cuts New Starts from $1.6B to $1.55B and requires that any new grant agreement include at least at 50% non-federal share; Note, FY10 New Starts funding was $2B, separate cuts were made last year.
- Includes funding for Washington’s Metro system – $150M
- No funding for TIGER, HSR, or TIGGER (transit energy efficiency grants)
- Prohibits any new RRIF (a loan program like TIFIA for rail projects) loans or loan guarantees.
- Cuts Amtrak capital funding from $922M to $898M; FY10 funding was $1,002M
- Cuts Amtrak operating funding from $563M to $227M