Congress Passes $1 Trillion 2017 Fiscal Year Spending Bill (Rail Industry Spending)
Congress has passed a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill to prevent a government shutdown, and fund the federal government for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year through September 30. President Trump is expected to sign the bill imminently.
The spending bill is generally good news for the rail industry and rail contractors. The bill provides $12.4 billion in funding for the Federal Transit Administration, $657 million above the FY 2016 enacted level. This includes $2.413 billion for the capital investment grants program or "New Starts" and adds to that $118 million in balances transferred from old projects for a total of $2.53 billion. In addition to continuing to fund all existing projects with Full Funding Grant Agreements, the explanatory statement accompanying the bill states that the Secretary shall provide funding for the following projects if they are able to sign new FFGAs:
Seattle Streetcar Center City Connector ($50 million)
In addition, the bill provides another $150 million installment of funding for the DC Metro subway system, WMATA.
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program is funded at $500 million. Amtrak receives a $75 million increase to $1.495 billion in FY2017.
Further, the bill includes the $199 million for positive train control funding for commuter railroads that was authorized under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act for FY2017, and funding for the new FRA grant programs that were established by the FAST Act including $68 million for the consolidated grant program (CRISI), $25 million for the federal-state SOGR partnership program, and $5 million for the rail restoration and enhancement grant program.
The passage of the bill also allows for the 2nd round of FASTLANE to begin. This will be an $850m program in FY17.
The FY2018 budget is now being discussed. The Administration's "skinny budget" proposal from February called for significant cuts to many transportation and infrastructure programs including killing the TIGER grant program, and limiting funding for New Starts to only those projects with full funding grant agreements. The budget document also calls for terminating federal support for Amtrak's long distance train services, but simultaneously reaffirms support for state-supported routes and the Northeast Corridor. However, the full budget is yet to emerge and once it does Congress will then take over the process as it moves towards completion this fall. The NRC will be actively engaged in this work. This will also take place against the backdrop of ongoing discussions about a potential major infrastructure bill. Stay tuned in for updates.