Increased Support for Railroad Safety Initiatives
WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 10, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Congressman Kevin Cramer joined a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass H.R. 2577, the 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. H.R. 2577 provides $55.3 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for fiscal year (FY) 2016.
“This legislation provides funding to support interstate commerce through highway, aviation, railway, and other transit and infrastructure activities while promoting safety. It also assists states and charitable organizations with funding for affordable housing programs to especially reach veterans, the elderly, and people with disabilities,” said Cramer.
Summary of H.R. 2577
The major provisions of the bill are as follows:
Title I—Department of Transportation
The bill includes $17.2 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation for FY 2016 and $70.6 billion in total budgetary resources. This is $1 billion below the FY 2015 enacted level and $6.8 billion below the President’s request. The bill provides funding specifically for the following programs:
Office of the Secretary of Transportation – The bill provides $105 million for the Office, the same amount as appropriated in FY 2015 and $8.6 million less than the budget request. The bill further appropriates funds by office within the Office of the Secretary.
National Infrastructure Investment Grants – The bill provides $100 million for National Infrastructure Investment grants, $400 million below FY 2015 and $1.2 billion below the request. Funds are discretionary from the General Fund of the Treasury and available until September 30, 2018.The National Infrastructure Investment Program (also known as TIGER grants) was created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to provide grants to state and local governments to improve the Nation’s transportation infrastructure. The infrastructure investment program awards funds on a competitive basis to grantees selected because of the significant impact they will have on the Nation, a metropolitan area, or region.
Essential Air Service Program (EAS) – The bill provides $155 million in discretionary funding for the EAS program, which is equal to the FY 2015 enacted level and $20 million below the budget request. Under EAS, there is estimated to be $108.4 million in mandatory spending, bringing the estimated total spending on EAS to $263.4 million for FY 2016. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 1996 authorized the collection of “overflight fees.” Overflight fees are a type of user fee collected by the FAA from aircraft that neither take off from, nor land in, the United States. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 increased the authorized level of overflight fee collection, and increased the amount that the Department can apply to the EAS program.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – The bill provides $15.9 billion in total budgetary resources for the FAA – $137 million above the FY 2015 enacted level and $18 million above the request. This will provide funding for all air traffic control personnel, including 14,500 air traffic controllers, 7,400 safety inspectors, and operational support personnel.
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) – The bill provides $41 billion for the activities of FHWA in FY 2016, contingent upon reauthorization. This amount is the same as FY 2015 and $10.3 billion below the budget request. The bill provides a separate limitation of $429 million for administrative expenses within the federal-aid highway program. The FHWA provides financial assistance to the states to construct and improve roads and highways. It also provides technical assistance to other agencies and organizations involved in road building activities.
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)– The bill provides $1.4 billion for FRA, a reduction of $262 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. This includes $289 million for Amtrak operations – continuing service for all current routes – and $850 million for capital grants. The bill also continues reforms to ensure the best use of tax dollars, such as requiring overtime limits for Amtrak employees to reduce unnecessary costs, and prohibiting federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of 50% or more off normal, peak fares. No funding is provided for High-Speed Rail.
Includes $1 million to hire 16 new grade crossing managers and directs the FRA to increase reporting to Congress on efforts to hire and retain rail safety inspectors. The funding level includes $2 million to improve safety practices and safety training for Class II and Class III freight railroads. This supports FRA’s initiative to partner with short-line and regional railroads to build a stronger, sustainable safety culture in this segment of the rail industry. The initiative will support safety compliance assessments and training on short lines that transport crude oil.
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – The bill provides $10.7 billion for the FTA, $139 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. Transit formula grants total $8.6 billion, which is consistent with the MAP-21 authorization legislation, to help local communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems. This funding is contingent on the enactment of new transportation authorization legislation, as the current authorization expires this year.
Maritime Administration (MARAD) – The bill provides $357 million for the Maritime Administration, $16.1 million above the FY 2015 enacted level, to increase the productivity, efficiency and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at the full authorized level of $186 million.
Safety – The bill provides funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes $837 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an increase of $6.5 million over the FY 2015 enacted level – and $572 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Also included is $227 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an increase of $6.9 million over the FY 2015 enacted level, to help address safety concerns including the transport of energy products.
Title II–Department of Housing and Urban Development
The bill provides a total of $42 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an increase of $1 billion above the FY 2015 enacted level and $3 billion below the request. The bill provides funding specifically for the following programs:
Section 8 and Public Housing – The bill provides $26.8 billion for Public and Indian Housing. This is an increase of $353 million above the FY 2015 enacted level and $2 billion below the requested level. This funding will continue assistance to all families and individuals currently served by these programs.
Other housing programs – The bill provides $11.3 billion for other HUD housing programs, $947 million above the FY 2015 enacted level. The bulk of this increase is needed to provide a full year of funding on all project-based rental assistance contracts and continue assistance to all those currently served by these programs. In addition, the bill provides a program level of $461 million for Housing for the Elderly, $41 million above the FY 2015 enacted level, and $152 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities, an increase of $17 million above the FY 2015 enacted level.
Title III—Related Agencies
The bill provides a total of approximately $342 million for Related Agencies under the title. The bill provides funding specifically for the following:
- $25.7 million for the Federal Maritime Commission
- $24 million for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) Office of Inspector General
- $104 million for the National Transportation Safety Board
- $177 million for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
- $3.5 million for the Interagency Council on Homelessness
Title IV—General Provisions
Title IV includes, among others, the following general provisions:
- Section 407 – prohibits funds from being used for any project that seeks to use the power of eminent domain unless eminent domain is employed only for a public use.
- Section 409 – prohibits funds in this Act from being used to permanently replace an employee intent on returning to his or her past occupation after the completion of military service.
- Section 410 – prohibits funds in this Act from being used unless the expenditure is in compliance with the Buy American Act.