Transportation bill done deal?

After numerous extensions to the federal transportation bill over the last several years, the surface transportation bill deal may get done today.  The new two-year bill, H.R. 4348, or MAP-21 – Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21stCentury (the name from the previous Senate bill), would include $82B for the highway program and $21.3B for the transit program. 

It would authorize $10.584 billion for FY 13 and $10.701 billion for FY 14 for transit, $8.478 billion and $8.595 billion are out of the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.

 Missouri’s funding in FY2011 under the current law is $982,398,440.  Under H.R. 4348, Missouri would receive the following for FY2012, FY2013, and FY2014 respectively – $911,163,848; $911, 163,848 and $918,972,619. 

Some of the elements of the new two-year package include:

The Transportation Enhancements (TE) program is renamed Transportation Alternatives with some modification but with continued suballocation to MPOs and some flexibility for states to opt out. 

The New Starts program is renamed the Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants program and the bus and Rail Mod programs are renamed the State of Good Repair Program.  The bill streamlines the New Starts process and would provide expedited review for projects under $100M.  A new category for Core Capacity projects is created under New Starts in which eligible projects must follow the same process as New Starts and must achieve at least a 10% increase in capacity along the corridor.  There is a modified definition of BRT to promote broader use of BRT and incentives for BRT projects that incorporate elements of fixed guideway. 

There is a new pilot grant program to encourage Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and a new demonstration program for projects with significant amounts of local or private financing. 

The bill allows transit systems operating fewer than 100 buses in peak service to use a portion of their Section 5307 grant funds for operating expenses.  However, it does not include the Senate-passed provision to allow all transit systems in areas over 200,000 in population to use a portion of their 5307 funds for operating assistance during times of high unemployment.

The bill does not include Keystone Pipeline or coal ash provisions, but does include the RESTORE Act to related to Gulf Coast restoration and a somewhat modified RAMP Act related to spending the balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Most of the Senate tax provisions were dropped including the pre-tax transit commuter benefit parity with parking and lifting the private activity volume cap for sewage and water facility bonds. 

H R 4348 Conference Report Summary

UPDATE:  Washington Post reports :  The package passed the House 373 to 52 and later cleared the Senate 74 to 19, with one member voting present. Under the agreement, federal transportation funding will continue at roughly $54 billion a year, averting a crisis for the nation’s highway construction projects that could have occurred if Congress not agreed on the money before the expiration of a short-term measure Saturday night.