Congress approves $1.1 trillion spending bill for transportation

Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that included funding for Amtrak, rail and transit programs and $500 million for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.┬áThe bill allows state departments of transportation and transit agencies access to this year’s funding increases that Congress had approved and set aside money for in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. That means about $400 million is available for transit programs and $1 billion is available for highway programs.
The bill also increases funding for the Federal Railroad Administration by $173 million to $1.85 billion. The bill also includes $98 million in rail grants to support positive train control implementation, make railroad infrastructure improvements and improve passenger-rail service. An additional $328 million will be given to Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and $1.17 billion for its national network. The bill also allocates $258 million for rail safety and research programs.┬áThe Federal Transit Administration will receive $12.4 billion, $9.7 billion of which will be for transit formula grants from the Highway Trust Fund. The measure provides $2.4 billion for Capital Investment Grants known as “New Starts,” which funds all current Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) transit projects and provides support for new projects anticipated to receive FFGA awards.
The spending generally presents good opportunities for the railroad industry according to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association. Not only are current transit projects receiving funding with existing FFGAs, future projects across the nation could receive funding if new FFGAs are signed. Possible funding includes $125 million for the Maryland Purple Line, $100 million for Caltrain electrification, $100 million for Seattle’s Lynnwood Link, $84 million for New York City Transit’s Canarsie power improvements, $50 million for the Santa Ana streetcar program, $49 million for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s core capacity project and $10 million for the Minneapolis Southwest light rail transit project.
The legislation also sets aside $408 million for 10 “small start” projects such as streetcar projects in Tempe, Sacramento, Fort Lauderdale, and Seattle. Also in the bill is $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and $199 million for positive train control funding for commuter railroads that was authorized under the FAST Act.