Uncertainty Ahead for Department of Transportation Funding

While projects funded from the Highway Trust Fund are safe through May, discretionary programs run by DOT from annual appropriations must wait for Congress to approve a budget, which just got more complicated due to Obama's anti-ISIS funding request.

September 14, 2014, 1:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

When President Obama requested on September 11 that Congress "authorize $500 million to train and equip pro-Western Syrian rebels battling Islamic State, often referred to as ISIS or ISIL," according to The Wall Street Journal, he complicated an already cloudy annual appropriation process for funding Department of Transportation (DOT) programs in fiscal year 2015.

In other words, "DOT appropriations run out in 19 days," according to Adam Snyder of Politico's Morning Transportation of September 12.

Stephen Lee Davis blogs on September 10 for Transportation for America that "we’re nearing the beginning of a new fiscal year on October 1, and Congress has failed to pass a budget to fund the government for the upcoming year."

The House and the Senate never resolved their disagreement over the annual appropriations for transportation for the upcoming fiscal year — one of many budget issues that they couldn’t agree on this year.

According to the chart in Davis' blog, there are seven programs that fall under appropriations for the Department of Transportation:

  1. Federal Aid Highways
  2. Transit Formula Grants
  3. Transit New & Small Starts
  4. TIGER [See Streetsblog's "US DOT Awards 72 TIGER Grants, But the Program Remains in Jeopardy"]
  5. Amtrak Operating
  6. Amtrak Capital
  7. High Speed Rail - which has $0 appropriated by Congress

Davis writes that Congress is likely to approve "a 'continuing resolution' to extend government funding through mid-December." He concludes by noting that "as long as the government is operating via a short-term budget, any programs that are discretionary at USDOT (i.e., not funded from the Highway Trust Fund) will likely face great uncertainty."

That means the next round of TIGER grants, money for new transit expansion (New and Small Starts), and passenger rail funding might see delays in when they’re awarded — creating even more funding uncertainty for states, metro areas and transit agencies.

[Hat tip to [email protected] Climate Plan on T4A blog]

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 in Transportation For America blog

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