Federal highway, transit and airport grant programs notched small gains and high-speed rail won a surprisingly large $4 billion in a fiscal 2010 transportation and housing spending bill that the House passed on July 23. The $123.1-billion measure includes $75.8 billion for the Dept. of Transportation, a 13% gain over DOT’s 2009 funding. The bill also has $47 billion for the Housing and Urban Development Dept. The Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to take up its version of the DOT-HUD bill on July 30.

The House bill would set the 2010 highway obligation ceiling at $41.1 billion, up 1% from 2009. With the Highway Trust Fund in trouble and no new reauthorization in place, the House highway figure is “a place-holder that keeps things current until the next authorization,” says David Bauer, American Road and Transportation Builders Association senior vice president for government relations (see story, p. 10). “Really, that’s the best we could hope for.”

Appropriators provided $10.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, up 3% from last year. Airport Improvement Program construction grants won a $500,000 boost, to $3.5 billion. High-speed rail is the big winner, with $4 billion. That would supplement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s $8 billion for very fast trains.

$41.1-billion highway obligation ceiling “is a place-holder...until the next reauthorization.”

The House rejected Republican amendments that would have trimmed the bill’s price tag by $20.5 billion, $13.5 billion and $6.2 billion. Also defeated was a proposal from Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), who sought to cut the high-speed rail allotment to $1 billion.