January 9, 2009

Rep. Oberstar proposes $15B for transit

In anticipation of the next stimulus bill, Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unveiled an $85 billion infrastructure proposal.

Under Oberstar's proposal, funding would be made available for "ready-to-go" projects at the following levels: $12.5 billion for public transportation, $30.5 billion for highway infrastructure, $3.4 billion for high-speed and intercity rail, $1.5 billion for Amtrak, and remaining funds would be provided for aviation, federal buildings, projects of the Army Corps of Engineers and other infrastructure investment.

For public transportation investment, Oberstar's proposal bears strong resemblance to the stimulus bill, H.R. 7110, that passed the House in the last Congress, but was not enacted into law. As part of his proposal, $7.5 billion would be available for capital grants under the urban and rural formula programs and $2 billion would be available for transit energy grants to assist transit systems with operating and capital expenses related to increased fuel costs, service expansion and the prevention of fare increases.

Oberstar has also proposed $2.5 billion in supplemental funding for the New Starts and Small Starts programs, an element not included in the prior House stimulus bill. The proposal also has a new recommendation of $3.4 billion for competitive high-speed rail grants under a program authorized by the Amtrak/Rail Safety legislation (Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, Division B of P.L. 110-432).

At present, funding levels have not been set by Congressional leaders for either a Senate or House proposal.

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