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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Omnibus bill trims TIGER grants, maintains Amtrak funding


The $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last weekend includes $500 million for the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, holds allocations for the Federal Highway and Federal Transit administrations to the same amount of Highway Trust Fund dollars as in fiscal-year 2014, and maintains level funding for Amtrak, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Journal reported.

The final vote on the TIGER grants program was negotiated from an earlier House appropriations bill that called for just $100 million, way down from $600 million appropriated in FY2014. The Senate had proposed $550 million.

Although the bill maintains Amtrak funding at about $1.4 billion, it directs the national intercity passenger railroad to provide transparent and accurate cost information to states on state-supported Amtrak routes, the journal reported.

The legislation also increases funding for the FTA's New Starts program to $2.1 billion from $1.9 billion in FY2014.

Overall, funding for transit would increase only $141 million from the previous fiscal year to $10.9 billion. That figure, in addition to the Amtrak funding and TIGER program allocation, are far below what's needed to help modernize the nation's transportation system, said Midwest High Speed Rail Association officials in their weekly newsletter.

"This year, neither party made a point to emphasize transportation and as a result funding remained about the same as it has been for years," they said. "While this is disappointing, it’s hardly a surprise. The real issue is not that this particular Congress didn’t show leadership, it’s that our funding status quo — the numbers Congress reverts to — does not reflect the needs of most Americans."

The bill also blocks recent USDOT hours-of-service rules that required truckers to get two nights of sleep before the start of their work week, and allows three additional states — Wisconsin, Mississippi and Kentucky — to exempt truck traffic from some federal truck-size limits. Vermont and Maine currently have some exemptions.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/16/2014