Highways get a $3.7 billion boost in House bill

(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation, Washington, DC) National transportation programs get a $3.7 billion dollar boost over last year in the House’s latest appropriation bill funding the Department of Transportation.

The increase includes new money for highway repairs and improvements, which have been in limbo with Congress unable to reach agreement on transportation or highway policy bills.

The House Appropriations Committee released a summary of the bill Thursday as the bill works its way through the legislative process on its way to the floor later this summer. DOT would get a total of $79.4 billion in Fiscal 2011, which begins Oct 1. That’s $3.7 billion more than the agency’s budget this year and $1.7 more than requested by President Obama.

Most of the money in the bill—$45.2 billion--goes to federal highway maintenance and construction. It’s a $3.1 billion increase designed to help fill a hole left by the stalled transportation reauthorization bill.

“The fact remains that our transportation network has great investment needs with aging highways, bridges, and transit systems, and an air traffic control system in desperate need of modernization. It is my belief that we can no longer defer investments in our transportation systems which provide the foundation for our nation’s economy,” said Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.), who chairs the House transportation subcommittee.

In addition, the FY 2011 bill contains:

-          $11.3 billion for public transportation programs

-          $16.6 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration, about $900 more than this year.

-          $20 million for the Obama Administration’s “Livable Communities” initiative. That’s in addition to $75 million DOT and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are already spending from Recovery Act funds. The program is supposed to help states and cities develop affordable housing near transportation hubs and promote mixed use transportation close to housing centers.

The bill could change before reaching the House floor. It has yet to face a markup by the full House Appropriations Committee, and it will have to be reconciled with a Senate version before reaching President Obama.

You can view a summary of DOT spending in the bill here.

A list of earmarks proposed for the bill is available here.