Spending Bill Increases Mass Transit Funding


By Tom Curry
Posted at 10:33 a.m. on Dec. 10, 2014

The $1.1 trillion spending bill unveiled Tuesday night includes important transportation policy provisions.

Here’s a brief summary:

  • According to a summary from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the bill provides $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, an increase of $141 million over fiscal year 2014.
  • The legislation also includes $8.6 billion in state and local transit grants from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund (what you pay your federal gasoline taxes into).
  • The measure has $500 million for the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program, which as my CQ.com colleague David Harrisonexplains (subscription required), was launched as part of the 2009 stimulus. Although some Republicans have groused about alleged political favoritism in awarding of the TIGER grants, the program “appears to be on its way to becoming a permanent fixture of transportation policy,” Harrison reports.
  • The bill essentially bars approval of  a foreign air carrier permit for discount airlineNorwegian Air International. It prohibits the use of any funds to okay the permit  ”where such approval would contravene United States law or Article 17 bis of the U.S.-E.U.-Iceland-Norway Air Transport Agreement.” Labor unions say that article of the agreement requires upholding labor standards which they say Norwegian Air violates.
  • The bill suspends enforcement of hours of work limits on truckers issued in 2013 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Last week Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., saying that suspending the 2013 rule “will put lives at risk.”

But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents independent truckers, said the regulation forces truckers “to drive in heavier traffic situations during rush hour by mandating that the 34-hour restart period include two consecutive 1:00AM – 5:00AM windows. Not only does this requirement have a negative impact on efficient freight movement, but it results in more trucks on the road at the busiest times of the day.”