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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Senate committee OKs spending for transportation at FAST Act levels

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week advanced a 2017 funding bill that would spend $77.9 billion on programs under the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), which would keep the Highway Trust Fund's highway and transit accounts at levels approved under the new five-year FAST Act, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

The bill would allow $16.9 billion in discretionary funding for the USDOT, which is $1.7 billion below the fiscal-year 2016 enacted level and $2.5 billion less than President Obama's budget request.

The bill includes $1.7 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, which is $76 million above the FY2016 enacted level, according to a committee press release.

Rail funding includes $1.4 billion for Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and national network, continuing service for all current routes.

The bill also calls for:
• $334 million for rail safety and research programs — $46 million above the FY 2016 enacted level — to fund inspectors and provide training to help ensure safety of passengers and local communities;
• $50 million for rail safety in the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Improvement grants program;
• $20 million for the federal-state partnership for the State of Good Repair grants and $15 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants. Those programs aim to help implement positive train control, enhance passenger-rail safety, reduce grade crossing incidents and address the state-of-good repair backlog on shared use passenger and commuter-rail infrastructure.

The bill also provides $12.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, which would be $575 million above FY2016's enacted level.

For transit, the bill calls for $9.7 billion in transit formula grants as stipulated in the FAST Act, and $2.3 billion for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts), which would fully fund all current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects. Within that amount, $333 million would go toward core capacity projects; $241 million for Small Starts projects and $20 million for the expedited delivery pilot program.

The bill also includes $525 million for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which would be $25 million above the FY2016 enacted level.

The committee's action advances the bill to the full Senate.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/25/2016