Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senate Appropriations Action

[UPDATED August 6]

On July 30, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of FY 2010 Transportation-HUD appropriations; on July 31, Senate Appropriations marked up FY 2010 Labor-HHS appropriations. On the Senate floor, USDA appropriations were passed August 5, in one of the last actions of the Senate before its August recess.

Friday, July 24, 2009

House Passes Record-Setting Transit Appropriations Bill

On July 23, the House passed its version of HR 3288, the FY 2010 Transportation and HUD appropriations bill. Within the federal transit program, here are some of the funding levels as approved by the House:

  • Section 5305 statewide and metropolitan transit planning grants: $113.5 million
  • Section 5307 urban transit formula grants (including funds apportioned per Section 5340): $4.8 billion
  • Section 5308 clean fuels bus grants: $61.5 million
  • Section 5309 bus and bus facility grants: $584.0 million
  • Section 5309 fixed guideway modernization grants: $1.8 billion
  • Section 5309 fixed guideway capital projects: $1.8 billion
  • Section 5310 elderly and persons with disabilities transit formula grants: $140.7 million
  • Section 5311 rural transit formula grants (including funds apportioned per Section 5340): $607.0 million
  • Section 5316 job access and reverse commute formula grants: $164.5 million
  • Section 5317 new freedom formula grants: $92.5 million
  • Section 5320 transit in parks and public lands: $26.9 million
  • Section 5335 funds for national transit database program management: $3.5 million
  • Section 5339 new fixed guideway alternatives analysis grants: $25.0 million
  • Over-the-road bus accessibility grants: $10.8 million
  • Transit research programs (including TCRP, NTI, university research, etc.): $65.7 million
  • Supplemental grant to WMATA: $150.0 million
  • FTA administrative expenses: $97.5 million

Action on this bill now turns to the Senate, whose transportation appropriations subcommittee drafted its version of this bill in a July 29 markup.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What to do with SAFETEA-LU: Divergent Paths

SAFETEA-LU, the current authorization for federal transit and highway programs, is set to expire Sept. 30, 2009.

In the Senate, the key committees all have cast their approval on a plan to simply extend SAFETEA-LU authorizations for 18-months, through March 31, 2011. The Senate Environment and Public Works committee okay'ed this approach on July 15; the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee approved it on July 21; the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee approved an 18-month extension on July 23. This extension still needs approval by the Senate Finance Committee before presentation to the full Senate for a vote.

In the House, the Transportation and Infrastructure committee has been resolute in calling for reauthorizing SAFETEA-LU this year, without an extension. Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chair of this committee, introduced a "Surface Transportation Authorization Act" earlier this summer; most recently, the Highways and Transit subcommittee held a hearing on July 16 at which nearly all the witnesses spoke to what they said was a pressing need for a new authorization this fall, without delay or extension.

These are very different approaches, and the September 30 deadline is coming up quickly. Hard to say where this will lead.

This week on the House Floor

House debates and passes FY 2010 transportation-housing appropriations July 23. House debates and passes Labor-HHS appropriations bill July 24.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Health Care Reform Legislation - what's in it for coordinated transportation?

While there are many significant issues being debated and amended in Congressional committees concerning health care reform, most of these proposed overhauls are not likely to have a direct effect on the provision of transportation services.

The largest area of transportation interest is the proposed expansion of Medicaid coverage. In its current form, the House version of health care reform (H.R. 3200) would expand the pool of Medicaid-eligible persons to almost all people at or below 133 percent of poverty, starting in 2013. As drafted in the House, there would be a 100 percent federal share for all Medicaid expenses incurred for persons added to the Medicaid population under this bill. It's not yet clear how this expansion of Medicaid would affect the provision of transportation, or the matching rates that would be used. Those questions may become clearer after the House Energy and Commerce committee completes its markup this week.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated this expansion of Medicaid would come with a $438 billion price tag to the federal budget between now and FY 2019.

Elsewhere in the draft House bill, there is an authorization for an $89 billion "public health investment fund," which would be used to support a number of activities, including a $39 billion expansion of the community health centers network over the next ten years. Although not treated as "mandatory" spending, this new trust fund, and its expenses, would be "off budget" when deficit calculations and budget balancing goals are addressed by Congress.

The health care debate remains very fluid. Two of the three House committees with jurisdiction - Ways & Means and Education & Labor - completed their work on portions of the House bill on July 17. The third - Energy & Commerce - is marking up its sections of the bill during the week of July 20.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FY 2010 Appropriations Update

UPDATED, July 20...

Congress is racing through the process of drafting and passing the various FY 2010 appropriations measures. Here's a quick run-down of where some of next year's spending bills currently stand in the House and Senate:

  • Transportation/Housing & Urban Development -- House subcommittee markup was July 13, full committee markup was July 17; may arrive on House floor July 28 0r 29. Senate action not yet scheduled.
  • Labor/Health & Human Services/Education -- House subcommittee markup was July 10, full committee markup was July 17; may arrive on House floor as soon as July 22. Senate action not yet scheduled.
  • Agriculture and rural development (H.R. 2997; H.Rept. 111-181) -- House subcommittee markup held June 11, full committee markup was June 18; HOUSE PASSED July 9. Senate version (S. 1406; S.Rept. 111-39) marked up and reported out from Senate appropriations committee July 7; no floor action yet scheduled.
  • Commerce/Justice/State (H.R. 2847; H.Rept. 111-149) -- HOUSE PASSED June 18. Marked up and reported out from Senate Appropriations Committee June 25.
  • Interior & Environment (H.R. 2996; H.Rept. 111-180) -- HOUSE PASSED June 26. Marked up and reported out (S.Rept. 111-38) from Senate Appropriations Committee June 25.
  • Homeland Security (H.R. 2892; H.Rept. 111-157) -- HOUSE PASSED June 24. Senate version (S. 1298; S.Rept. 111-31) marked up and reported out from Senate appropriations Committee June 18; SENATE PASSED July 9.
  • Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (H.R. 3082; H.Rept. 111-188) -- House subcommittee markup was June 16, full committee markup was June 24; HOUSE PASSED July 10. Senate version (S.1407; S.Rept. 111-40) marked up and reported out from Senate Appropriations Committee July 7.

Once subcommittees have finished drafting (or "marking up," to use Congressional jargon) their versions of these bills, one often can find highlights, or even detailed language, on the subcommittee pages at and For legislation that has been officially introduced, the Library of Congress' "THOMAS" web site has a very readable table that shows status of current appropriations bills at

[NOTE: External links are shared for informational purposes only. Neither the NRC, the Community Transportation Association, nor the Federal Transit Administration assumes any responsibility for the views, opinions or accuracy of external links]

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Transportation, Coordination, and the Climate Change Bill

Last week, the House passed a comprehensive energy policy and climate change bill (H.R. 2454). This bill faces an unpredictable future in the Senate, where it is likely to be debated this month.

The centerpiece of the House legislation is the establishment of a “cap and trade” system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Several features of the House bill would be likely to have effects on the planning and provision of public and community transportation services. Some of these are discussed below.

  • Within the trading of emission allowances, a portion of these allowances would be distributed to states’ State Energy and Environment Development (SEED) accounts (a new creation under this bill) for the purposes of supporting states’ renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. Up to 10 percent of the allowances states receive under this allocation could be used to pay the “non-federal” share of FTA Section 5307, 5308, 5309, 5310, 5311 or 5319 grants.
  • States and MPOs would be required to address greenhouse gas reduction as part of the development of their TIPs and STIPs. The bill would require these plans to be developed in coordination with air quality, environmental health, and transportation agencies, and would require these plans to be developed in consultation with housing, public health, economic development, land use, environment, and public transportation agencies. This section of the bill outlines a number of measures to be explored in the planning process, including setting targets for increased transit ridership and many facets of coordination between transportation and human or social service functions within the state or locality.
  • There are provisions to promote location-efficient mortgages, which offer a financial inducement to finance housing that is located near public transportation.
  • The “green” and affordable housing sections of the House bill would require local housing and planning agencies to coordinate housing strategies with their transportation planning efforts, and to make use of existing infrastructure in housing plans, programs and projects.
  • The House bill includes a "Climate Change Worker Adjustment Assistance" program to aid workers placed out of jobs as a result of changes in current energy-intensive industries. This program is modeled after the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, and includes transportation assistance to dislocated workers, and inclusion of transportation and various social services such as job training and child care as parts of the family of services eligible to be provided to these dislocated workers.
  • There would be an authorization, albeit without specific funding, for EPA-administered grants to support a "SmartWay" transportation efficiency program, aimed primarily at the freight transportation sector.
  • Other items in the bill include a small program of competitive grants for “clean business” innovation, transit agency participation in urban tree programs, a small program of competitive grants to promote sustainable low-income community development projects, and a national program to inventory fish and wildlife habitat corridors for consideration in transportation planning processes.
Although transportation is not directly discussed, the Washington Post recently posted a set of Q's & A's about the House legislation: