The Obama Administration's FY 2011 budget proposal is largely a stay the course plan—at least in the short-term—for the federal transportation programs. The February 1 document includes basically status quo levels of investment for the federal highway, transit and aviation infrastructure programs. This approach appears to be more a function of the fact that multi-year authorizations of each of these programs is overdue and major policy decisions in each of these areas is closely linked to generating new revenues.
The budget proposal indicates President Obama is preparing to work with Congress to develop a “Jobs Bill,” that among other things will “upgrade and build infrastructure.” The plan, however, includes no specifics on what policies that measure will include or the levels of infrastructure investment it may provide. While the House has passed a jobs measure, Senate Democrats are still hammering out the details of their plan. It is worth noting that the three-year discretionary spending freeze proposed in the Administration’s budget would go into effect in FY 2011. As such, it appears any jobs legislation enacted in 2010 would not be subject to these new constraints.
The budget requests an FY 2011 total of 78.8 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation, which would be a 2.3 percent total increase over the amount enacted in FY 2010. The proposal includes $41.3 billion for the core highway program (a $200 million increase), $10.8 billion for public transportation (a $67 million increase), $1 billion for high speed rail (a decrease of $1.5 billion), and $3.5 billion for airport construction (the same amount as in FY 2009). The budget also requests $4 billion for a new National Infrastructure Innovation & Finance Fund, which appears to be the latest version of the National Infrastructure Bank concept President Obama and many congressional leaders have embraced.
The budget also sends a sobering message about the ability of the Highway Trust Fund to maintain current levels of highway, bridge, and public transportation investments in the future. While the document acknowledges the situation, it includes no recommendations for either raising new revenues or shifting to an alternative method of funding these programs.
For a complete analysis of the proposed federal 2011 Transportation Budget, click here.
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