Supplemental spending bills that would provide a significant boost for construction this year are moving on Capitol Hill. Beneficiaries would be firms in the transportation sector and in the growing homeland security market.

On May 24, the House passed a $29.4-billion package that includes $5.5 billion to help New York City recover from the Sept. 11 attack, $5.8 billion for homeland security and $15.8 billion for the Dept. of Defense. The bill, approved 280-138, also would restore at least $4.4 billion in fiscal 2003 federal highway aid that President Bush had proposed cutting

On May 22, the Senate Appropriations Committee cleared a $31-billion bill, including $8.3 billion for homeland security and $5.5 billion for New York. The measure also restores from $4.4 billion to $5.7 billion for highways in 2003 (see table). "It's an extremely positive step that the supplemental has begun to rectify the shortfall in highway funding," says Peter Loughlin, senior director for congressional relations for the Associated General Contractors.

Overall, Bush likes the House bill, although it is above his $27.1-billion March request. "The House did a great service...for our men and women in uniform fighting the war against terror, for homeland security and for fiscal discipline," he says. But Bush feels the Senate panel was too generous. "With our nation now at war, now is not the time for unnecessary spending on lower priority items," he notes.

The House package has $3.85 billion for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including $850 million to reconfigure airports for new baggage-screening machines, $630 million to buy explosive-detection equipment and $75 million in grants for seaport security.

The Senate panel includes the $4.4 billion Bush sought for TSA, without specifying sums for airport work. Its bill appears to assume $507 million for screening-machine installation, says Todd Hauptli, senior vice president for legislative affairs with the American Association of Airport Executives and Airports Council International-North America.

Hauptli says that, in some cases, it will cost more to accommodate the scanning equipment than to buy the machines themselves. He says Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport estimates that installing 40 scanning machines, costing a total of $40 million, would require $193 million for construction. "Even $850 million isn't going to be enough to pay for all the construction and installation costs," says Hauptli. "It is a good down payment." The House bill also would give the Army Corps of Engineers $128 million and the U.S. Dept. of Energy $218 million for security upgrades. The Senate includes $40 million for DOE.

New York's share includes $1.8 billion to rebuild transit lines, $2.75 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency relief aid and $750 million in community development grants. The House bill also has $201 million, and the Senate panel's $211 million, to renovate and build U.S. embassies in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Dushanbe, Tajikistan.