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U.S. House passes FY2020 "minibus," including THUD bill

As the appropriations process continues, transit funding fares well in the House version with two potentially detrimental amendments left out of the package.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $383.3 billion, five-bill appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2020 on June 25. The "minibus" package includes the House's $137.1-billion Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development FY2020 Appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Department of Transportation. The package's passage in the House is another step in the full appropriations process.

  • “The American people sent us to Washington with a new House majority, trusting that we would expand opportunity with thoughtful, sound policies that improve the lives of our constituents,” said U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC-4), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. “That’s exactly what this year’s transportation and housing funding bill delivers. It makes forward-looking investments in our housing and transportation infrastructure, while ensuring concerted attention to safety, the needs of the most vulnerable, and resilience. It will benefit all American communities – urban and rural – and lay the foundation for economic growth and opportunity. I’m thankful for the collaborative effort by all our members to pass the bill on the House floor and look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to enact a final measure into law.”

Transportation-related highlights of the package include:

  • $3 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, including $350 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements and $350 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair. Amtrak is appropriated $2 billion, which includes $700 million for Northeast Corridor Grants and $1.3 billion for National Network Grants.

  • $13.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, which includes $2.3 billion for Capital Investment Grants and $750 million for Transit Infrastructure Grants.

  • Several pro-transit amendments were added to the House bill and include:

  • $1 million for the BUILD account in order to reinforce the importance of robust investments in safe, reliant and efficient transit options including commuter rails, subway, buses, bike and pedestrian paths; additionally $5 million of the BUILD program planning grant set-aside program for a total of $20 million to support transit, transit-oriented development and multimodal projects.

  • The Low or No Emission Grant Program funding was increased by $6 million to promote state emission responsibility, but the Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Grants was decreased by the same amount.

  • The Transit Formula Grants were increased by $1 million for technical assistance and training for front line bus and rail transit workers.

What did not make it into the House's version of the minibus was either the Perry or Woodall amendments, which the American Public Transportation Association urged its members to oppose.

The Perry Amendment, sponsored by Re. Scott Perry (R-PA), was not offered. Had it been, APTA explains that it would have resulted in an estimated 12 percent cut to all transit formula apportionments in FY 2020. The amendment reapplied the Rostenkowski Test, which would have forced an estimated $1.2 billion cut to public transit formula funding. Additionally, the amendment would have removed a section from the bill that includes changes to the FTA's administration of the CIG program.

The Woodall Amendment sponsored by Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) was defeated by voice vote. APTA explains that the amendment would have removed section 193 from the bill, which states that under current law, Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans repaid with local funds are considered part of the non-Federal share of the project cost. The Woodall Amendment struck this TIFIA clarification and allowed the U.S. Department of Transportation to continue to consider TIFIA loans repaid with local funds "in the context of all Federal funding sources..."

$1 million will be appropriated from the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Planning, Research, and Development for the purposes of encouraging the Department of Transportation to research implementing connected vehicle and autonomous vehicle technologies at highway-rail grade crossings.

$1 million from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) program will be used for the purpose of instructing the Federal Railroad Administration to include preventive maintenance as an eligible capital expense for grants awarded to projects deploying Positive Train Control.

“The American Public Transportation Association applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for approving critical funding for public transit and passenger rail infrastructure by passing H.R. 3055. This legislation includes important provisions for maintaining and expanding our public transportation infrastructure and represents a commitment by lawmakers to growing our communities, supporting jobs, and providing expanded mobility options," said Paul Skoutelas, APTA president and CEO.