High-speed rail program scrapped during budget talks

| Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lawmakers have scrapped a $1.5 billion budget request by President Obama for a high-speed rail program that would have been funded by the Highway Trust Fund. OOIDA leadership says the action sends a strong signal about transportation priorities as Congress continues to negotiate federal spending levels.

In 2010, high-speed rail received $2.5 billion in the budget, and the White House requested a lesser amount for fiscal year 2011. However, during an early morning negotiation session on Tuesday, April 12, congressional appropriators chose to mark “zero” in the rail column.

Advocates for highways and highway dollars said the action sends a message.

“This sends a signal to the administration that their proposal to fund a massive new high-speed rail program out of the same pot of money that funds highways will run into strong resistance on Capitol Hill,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley said.

The measure that cuts high-speed rail also aims to recapture millions of dollars in unspent or expired highway contracts and earmarks. It reclaims $400 million in rail grant money that Florida Gov. Rick Scott turned away.

It also trims the Department of Transportation’s discretionary grants, known as TIGER, from $600 million to $527 million. TIGER, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, funds some road and bridge projects but its focus is on job creation and livable community initiatives. TIGER money comes from general funds and is not part of the Highway Trust Fund.

Despite cuts in many transportation areas, funding levels for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will be increased slightly this year, according to Capitol Hill sources.