New Transportation Budget Deal Cuts Out HSR Funding, but is it That Big of a Deal?

I’m not going to waste a lot of time rambling about finally getting a transportation funding bill through its final obstacles so the DOT knows what it can play with next year. We’re here, it’s settled (sort of), pop the champagne (if you want to get seriously into the weeds on this one please take a look at this monster of an appropriation proceeding):

  • TIGER Grants are back but there’s still a disconnect between supply and demand. States want Federal funding for adventurous and necessary infrastructure projects but it seems like there’s simply not enough cash to go around at this point so they’ll have to settle for $500 million overall.
  • High speed rail is out, completely. This may sound like a significant defeat when President Obama had originally requested $1 billion for HSR, but when you consider that $1 billion when get you about 200 miles worth of rail you can understand why my frustration is tepid at best. The sum may have gone a long way in funding economic and environmental impact studies but in many cases HSR corporations and individual states are happy to carry them on their state ledgers;┬áit doesn’t single-handedly hamstring the burgeoning movement.
  • Amtrak is getting $466m for its operating budget and $952m for its capital budget (a ~25% cap is put on debt servicing from the capital funding). It’s a boost from last year’s appropriation but still only about 12.5% of what Pres. Obama requested for the country’s wildly successful rail program.

There’s a laundry list of other items included in the final copy of the appropriations committee meeting (FTA is getting increased funding, FHWA is still holding most of the paper) but I’ll let you wade through the rest of the document on your own.

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