Federal transportation construction programs have their fiscal 2012 funding locked in, thanks to a newly enacted appropriations package. Highway funding and TIGER grants were sliced, high-speed rail was zeroed out, but aid for mass transit got a boost.
The legislation, which President Obama signed into law on Nov. 18, the day after the measure had cleared the House and Senate, provides $128.1 billion in discretionary funds for the Depts. of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Justice and Agriculture.
The bill’s total represents a $500-million cut from those departments’ combined 2011 levels.
The measure also includes $2.1 billion in disaster-relief assistance--most of it for DOT--and another stopgap continuing resolution, to carry all the other federal agencies through Dec. 16.
Construction programs covered by the new “CR” include: military construction; the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking-water and wastewater-treatment account; and General Services Administration public buildings, among others.
For construction, the meatiest part of the just-signed mini-omnibus, or “mini-bus,” spending package is the DOT section.
Lawmakers trimmed the federal-aid highway obligation limit by 5%, to $39.1 billion, but also provided an additional $1.7 billion in disaster-relief aid, to repair storm-damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
DOT’s popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, which helps fund highway, transit and other projects around the country, also was sliced 5%, to $500 million.
A big, but not unexpected, blow came in high-speed passenger rail, which was zeroed out for 2012. The program also got no funds in 2011, after receiving a total of $10.5 billion over the 2009-2010 period.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants for runways, taxiways and other infrastructure, also had its obligation limit nicked by 5%, to $3.35 billion.
One pleasant surprise for construction was an increase for the Federal Transit Administration, whose budget was hiked 5%, to $10.5 billion.
Within that total, FTA’s capital investment grants, which help finance new rail transit starts--both large and small--got a 22% boost, to nearly $2 billion.
Among non-transportation programs, the mini-bus bill provides $90 million Federal Bureau of Prisons’ buildings and facilities account, down 9% from 2011.

HUD's community-development fund was cut 15%, to $2.9 billion. That fund provides block grants that finance infrastructure, housing rehabilitation and construction and other activities.