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9-15-2014 Federal Transportation Briefing

Annual Appropriations

After the House passed its FY 2015 appropriations bill in June, work came to a standstill in the Senate due to a leadership dispute over vote thresholds for some amendments. Work has begun this fall, however, on a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to take effect when the current appropriations bill expires on Sept. 30.

H J Res. 124 was introduced in the House on Sept. 9, one day after the end of the August recess.  As currently written, it would provide funding through Dec. 11, 2014, with few anomalies. (One exception is a very small across-the-board cut of 0.0554 percent to offset $88 million in funding to help fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa.)  However, a floor vote scheduled for last week was delayed to allow for discussion on the possibility of adding provisions related to arming and training Syrian rebels.  After work in the Rules Committee tonight, the resolution may come to the House floor tomorrow, Sept. 16.

Leadership in both chambers has expressed the hope that the lame duck Congress will pass an omnibus, possibly based on previous proposals, to span the time period between the expiration of the CR and the end of FY 2015.  However, the outcome of the November elections will play a major role in the course taken.

Passenger Rail Reauthorization

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee rolled out a proposal last week for passenger rail reauthorization. HR 5449, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act (PRRIA) is described as a bipartisan bill, and an effort to apply to Amtrak the same types of reforms that encouraged enactment of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act last May.  The bill is set for committee markup next week.

PRRIA is a four-year bill (FY 2015-2018) that streamlines environmental reviews for rail projects and allows for more private investment, mostly relating to partnerships for commercial development of Amtrak-owned stations in the Northeast Corridor (NEC).  It would authorize funding for Amtrak at a level similar to the actual amount appropriated in FY 2014 (that level is about 40 percent lower than authorized in PRIIA of 2008).  Also, NEC revenue could be invested back into the NEC instead of subsidizing other routes. For long-distance routes such as those running through Iowa, the bill requires an outside audit, and provides for the possibility of competition.  _______________________________________________________________________________ Funding/authorization expiration dates:

Sept. 30, 2014 – transportation appropriations (HR 3547, T-HUD)

Sept. 30, 2019 - water resource and development programs (WRRDA of 2014)

Sept. 30, 2013 - passenger rail and freight safety programs (PRIIA of 2008)

May 31, 2015 - surface transportation programs (MAP-21)

Sept. 30, 2015 - aviation programs (Air Transportation Modernization & Safety Improvement Act, 2012)

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