Racing to complete work before the Christmas break, Congress has approved a sweeping $1.7-billion omnibus spending package that aims to fund federal agencies—including construction and infrastructure programs—through next Sept. 30, the end of the 2023 federal fiscal year.

Final congressional approval came on Dec. 23, when the House cleared the bill on a 225-201 vote with one lawmaker voting "present." The Senate had passed the omnibus on the previous day, on a 68-29 tally. The measure next goes to President Joe Biden for his expected signature.

A look at the line item-by-line item figure shows that the funding totals for construction accounts include a mix of increases and cuts.

Perhaps the biggest winner among major infrastructure accounts is Dept. of Defense construction, with an allotment of $19 billion, up 28% from the enacted 2022 level.

Federal Buildings

The General Services Administration’s public buildings program also fared well, with $808 million for its construction and acquisition account, more than double this year’s mark of $299 million.

GSA’s buildings repairs and alterations program would get a 75% boost, to $245 million.

Another key federal buildings program, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs major construction would be pared 10% to $1.4 billion. Major projects are those valued at more than $20 million.

Highway Funding Follows IIJA Blueprint

Some large transportation programs would receive modest increases, mirroring the levels in last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

For example, the mainstay Federal Highway Administration highway obligation ceiling would be set at $58.8 billion, up 2% from 2022 and precisely equal to the IIJA number.

Total Federal Transit Administration funding would be just under $17 billion, a 4% hike from this year's level.

Within that total, the agency's Capital Investment Grant program, which includes funds for new transit project starts, would rise 17%, to $2.6 billion. That includes $1.8 billion for new starts, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Paul P. Skoutelas, APTA president and chief executive officer, said in a statement, "This is a transformational investment in public transportation infrastructure that our country so desperately needs."

Industry and transportation officials were happy that the omnibus passed when it did. Fresh in their minds was the experience with the fiscal 2022 bill, which wasn't enacted until March. 

That meant that state transportation departments didn't have access to the full IIJA 2022 funding totals until more than five months into that fiscal year.

Looking at the omnibus for 2023, Susan Howard, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials director of policy and government relations, said in an interview, "'s extremely beneficial to have this in hand earlier than we have in past years."  

With the 2022 bill, she says, "It was just really difficult to nail things down early and get the full benefit of the IIJA," Howard says.

Last year's delay also affected engineering and construction companies, especially those that focus on the highway sector. 

Steve Hall, American Council of Engineering Cos. senior vice president for advocacy and external affairs, said in an interview that the key point about the 2023 omnibus is that "it got done in 2022 and we're not extending this debate and uncertainty into 2023, like we did earlier this year."

Elsewhere at the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, the popular and competitively awarded RAISE grants has a 3% funding hike to $800 million in fiscal 2023. 

Some highway, transit and airport infrastructure programs draw substantially from trust funds.

But the omnibus also has some dollars that come from the general fund. The largest of those allocations is $3.4 billion for highway infrastructure programs, up 40% from 2020.

Transit infrastructure grants from the general fund would get $542 million in the omnibus, an 8% increase.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works account is virtually flat with the 2022 mark, at $8.3 billion. But within that total, the Corps construction account is sliced 27% to $1.8 billion.

Boosts for Environment, Energy

At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, funding for its main water infrastructure account—state and tribal assistance grants—would edge up 3%, to $4.5 billion. 

But of that amount, the bedrock Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water SRF would be frozen, at $1.6 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively.

Also at EPA, the account for federal Superfund site cleanup work would increase 4% to $1.3 billion.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy defense environmental cleanup account also would be on the plus side, with a 5% hike to $7 billion.

The funding package also includes $46.5 billion to the agency, 4% more than the in the last fiscal year. Its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is set to gain a record $3.46-billion allocation, up 6% from fiscal 2022, for research and development of clean vehicle technologies, renewable energy grid integration and clean hydrogen production. Billions more also were gained under the infrastructure law for DOE funding of advanced nuclear power and other clean energy demonstration projects.

The omnibus package also clears $30 million for DOE-funded oil and gas well cleanup work and $60 million for methane mitigation.

But there is no funding increase to boost electric grid transformer production, despite power sector industry groups' request for $1 billion, with growing labor and supply chain disruptions dramatically increasing order times for a crucial power system component, says S&P Global.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also noted that the package has $1.8 billion to launch the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act, which includes funds to build semiconductor fabricating facilities around the U.S.

The text of this article was updated on 12/22/2022 with Senate and House votes and ACEC comments. Further update on 12/27/2022 to correct numbers for Federal Transit Administration.