$274 billion in new funding will be dedicated to the transportation industry as part of a $550 billion infrastructure spending package.
This is an unprecedented amount of funding to be allocated toward American bridge, highway, road, port, rail, transit, and airport improvement projects, which comes through the latest bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill. This 2,702-page legislation will also allow Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary, to have complete oversight regarding a $105 billion portion of those funds.
The bill comes after collaborative efforts between 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans have been underway and will have significant effects on EPA and Interior and Energy Department programs and the funding allotted for them. Still, though, it appears that the Department of Transportation will be coming out on top.
In fact, DOT will receive the majority of new funds, including $105 billion allocated for DOT grant programs, according to Eno Center of Transportation‘s Jeff Davis. Although all programs awarding grants must follow certain regulations, discretionary grants distributed by the transportation secretary have come out to be “way more than any other grant,” according to Davis.
The breakdown: $66 million will be dedicated to rail improvements, including $58 billion for Amtrak’s national railroad network, its federal and state partnerships regarding intercity rail capabilities, and its Northeast Corridor. The bill’s appropriations title, which is a supplemental spending fund, will distribute $1.2 billion annually to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor–coming out to $6 billion a year. Over the course of the next five years, all of Amtrak’s networks will receive around $16 billion, and intercity passenger rail capabilities will receive $36 billion.
These funds for Amtrak are “transformational,” said Rail Passengers Association president and CEO, Jim Mathews. Although the legislation did not implement a passenger rail trust fund, the policies outlined in the new bill are extremely helpful, he added.
In fact, the legislation made clear that the transportation sector wants “to see [Amtrak] do a good job with the money [they] give [it], but [they’re] not trying to make [Amtrak] have a profit,” Mathews explained, noting that the language in the bill made clear that Amtrak is indeed a service supported by the nation’s taxpayers.
Additionally, transit will be offered a $19 billion increase in contract authority as well as $10.25 billion for new transit infrastructure grant funding as part of its overall $39 billion package. $8 billion will be allocated toward Capital Investment Grants regarding improvements and upgrades within light rail, commuter rail, heavy rail, bus rapid transit and streetcar transit projects. For accessibility station capabilities for persons with disabilities and the elderly, the bill awards another $1.75 billion.
The bill indicates that $118 billion will be taken from general revenue to help projects working to repair and improve roadways across the country, and that gas tax revenue will now fund the federal Highway Trust Fund. Highway projects themselves will also be given $110 billion, with $55 billion of that dedicated to contract authority and another $55 billion for other appropriations.
A pilot program for user fee implementation regarding vehicle miles traveled will also receive funding; however, legislators will need to find methods of solving issues surrounding current federal transportation policies, as well as how to help the Highway Trust Fund become much more efficient.
Federal dollars have also been repurposed in a way to generate revenue for transportation through the bill, including the $205 billion in federal funding for the coronavirus relief bill. For that particular bill, $3 billion was also repurposed from airline payroll support, although passenger airlines used the majority of their $40 billion payroll support packages during the course of the pandemic. Of the $4 billion allocated for payroll support within cargo airlines, only $1 billion was used, leaving the $3 billion up for grabs.
Finally, airports will receive $15 billion over the course of the next five years for tower and runway projects, $5 billion for FAA equipment and facility improvements, and $5 billion for other discretionary grants.