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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

House GOP proposes tighter transportation spending in FY2016


The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee released its fiscal-year 2016 budget proposals for transportation, housing and urban development, which call for cuts to the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) discretionary spending, as well as reductions in the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) and Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) budgets.

The bill proposes $17.2 billion in discretionary appropriations for the USDOT, which is $1 billion less than the fiscal-year 2015 level and $6.8 billion below President Obama's request for the department.

The FRA would be funded at $1.4 billion, a $262 million reduction from FY2015's enacted level. The amount includes $289 million for Amtrak's operations to continue service for current routes. An additional $850 million would be provided for capital grants. The budget also would limit overtime for Amtrak employees and prohibit federal funding for routes offering a 50 percent or more discount off normal or peak fares.

Also, rail safety and research programs would be funded at $226 million, which is equal to the FY2015 enacted amounts. An additional $6.5 million would fund a highway grade crossing safety initiative.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program would be slashed by 80 percent to $100 million compared with the current funding level.

The committee also proposed trimming the FTA's budget to $10.7 billion, which would be $161 million less than the FY2015's enacted level. Transit formula grants would total about $8.6 billion, or consistent with the current federal MAP-21 law, which expires May 31. That funding would depend on Congress passing a new transportation authorization spending bill.

Under the transit formula grants, the budget would provide $1.9 billion for Capital Investment Grants, also known as "New Starts" funding; full funding for all current Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) transit projects, and an additional $250 million for projects that will enter an FFGA by the end of FY2016. Also included is $40 million for core capacity projects, and full funding for all state and local Small Starts projects that will begin in FY2016.

The bill includes no funds for high-speed rail.

"This bill invests in critical infrastructure programs that will keep our people and our businesses moving, and that will make our roads, rails and airways safe for all," said Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). "These are tight-budget times, and this legislation makes the most out of each and every transportation and housing dollar."

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More News from 4/29/2015