The House yesterday narrowly passed a $154 billion jobs bill that included tens of billions in transportation funding. Largely breaking along the same lines as the stimulus bill earlier this year, the funding works out like so:
- $27.5 billion for highways
- $8.4 billion for public transit
- $800 million for Amtrak
Unlike the Obama administration proposal to allocate $50 billion in competitive transportation grants, this bill mostly allocates along the same lines as the stimulus — mostly through distribution formulas and with most of the money going to state transportation departments that tend to favor highway projects often far from urban areas. Most transit money will be allocated through metropolitan areas also along formula guidelines. Earlier this year, the PSRC distributed over $130 million in stimulus funds.
The Senate will be drafting a bill next year that could move back toward the administration’s goal of a more competitive infrastructure grant process that would likely see better projects receiving funds on merit rather than state politics. That could mean better results for transit. But Senators have more loyalty to their states than to the federal government, so the House bill could simply reflect the political reality.
Either way, more unexpected capital investment for public transit is always good. Based on the earlier stimulus requests, Sound Transit could accelerate construction of a South 200th St stop or North Link to Northgate with some more dollars. Metro could potentially purchase more buses and improve facilities. Local agencies and cities may have new capital projects that weren’t available at the time of the stimulus.
Up to 10% of the transit dollars could be spent on operations costs, according to Streetsblog DC.