Monday, April 27, 2009

Transportation Infrastructure Spending Hangs In The Balance

Meetings of the House/Senate Conference Committee on the budget resolution officially began this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Washington, D. C. time. Staffers from both houses have been working on the details of the bill over the last two weeks, and legislative leaders hope to bring it to the floor of both houses later this week. The Senate version lags way behind the House version in every year 2010 through 2014 with respect to the spending Senators expect to authorize for road, bridge, railway, transit and waterway construction projects. The Senate version of the resolution cuts down the spending authority provided in the House bill by $12.9 billion for 2010, by $13.7 billion for 2011, by $14.1 billion for 2012, by $15.1 billion for 2013 and by $16.1 billion for 2014. These cuts represent a total slashing of over $72.1 billion from surface transport construction over the next five years.

All the media focus so far has been about the political fuss over whether or not the final resolution should include "reconciliation instructions" regarding health care and education funding, which would reduce the number of votes required for passage of health care and education appropriations in the Senate from 60 votes to 51 votes. There is no work out of the staff members or the Congressmen or Senators themselves regarding the fate of the transportation infrastructure numbers. Hopefully the news will be good once the final document is released to the public. Overall, the expectation is that final numbers will be $10 billion less than the administration wants. Hopefully none of that will come out of the construction budget.

No matter which way the debate falls out in the Conference Committee, the budgeted funds will fall far short of the $1.3 trillion in projected transportation infrastructure construction needs over the next six years. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Public Transportation Association, the traveling public should have $166 billion a year in highway construction and $59 billion a year in mass transit construction during the six year period from 2010 to 2016.
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