Federal FY18 Budget Bill Provides Big Boost for Transportation Programs

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President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill on March 23rd that included substantial increases in several transportation funding programs that could benefit the Sacramento region. The FY18 spending bill triples funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, increases available Capital Investment Grants (CIG) for new public transportation construction projects, directs $1.3 billion to Amtrak to support intercity rail service across the nation, and provides $100 million for autonomous vehicle research and development.

The bill increases TIGER program funding from $500 million to $1.5 billion for transportation projects that will have a significant local or regional impact. Almost one-third of the funding is directed towards rural projects and $15 million is included for the planning, preparation, or design of projects. The funding for TIGER is significant since the President had proposed eliminating funding for the program altogether. It is the first time the program has had such a significant increase in the decade since it started, signaling the strong bipartisan support it has generated in Congress.

The CIG program – aimed at supporting construction of new light rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit projects – also saw an increase in funding, and a directive to continue the program. Overall federal funding for public transit projects increased from $2.4 billion to $2.6 billion, of which $1.5 billion is dedicated to New Starts projects, $400 million to Small Starts projects, and $715 million to Core Capacity projects. Importantly, the legislation includes language requiring the Federal Transit Administration to continue to administer the program, which is critical to ensuring the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar Project remains eligible for Small Starts funding. While no specific transit projects were named in the spending bill (a departure from recent practice), projects already in the pipeline such as the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar should compete well for the funding and be protected from any future cuts to the CIG program. The bill also requires $2.23 billion of the funding be allocated by the end of 2019 which will further ensure the funding of projects.

The omnibus legislation funds the government through the remainder of the 2018 budget year, which ends September 30.