On Sept. 19, the Senate Appropriations committee approved its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding package for U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) programs. The Senate bill, like the House bill passed in June, includes the full $46.365 billion FAST Act obligation limitation for the federal-aid highway program, a $1.1 billion increase over 2019. In addition, the bill includes $2.7 billion discretionary appropriations for highway programs, almost the exact same amount as the House but with different priorities. However, as it appears that the full House and Senate will not approve these bills or negotiate final spending figures prior to the September 30 end of the fiscal year, funding for U.S. DOT programs will be included as part of the Continuing Resolution that will be necessary to keep federal government programs operating.
The Senate bill provides a $1 billion appropriation for BUILD grants, the same as the House and the same as in 2019. Transit formula grants total $10.1 billion, from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund, consistent with the FAST Act. One of the larger differences between the House and Senate bills is the transit Capital Improvement Grant (CIG) program, which gets a $1.978 billion appropriation under the Senate bill, $324 million less than under the House bill. The Senate bill maintains flexibility for State Departments of Transportation to repurpose some unused prior year project funding for current infrastructure projects and provides an additional $1.25 billion is for the Surface Transportation Block Grant funds and for the elimination of hazards at railway-highway grade crossings, and $1.25 billion is for bridge repairs in small states with high rates of bridges not in good condition. The Senate bill also provides an additional $450 million for the FAA Airport Improvement grant program $50 million less than the House bill.