Final FY20 Bill Provides $87.2 Billion for USDOT
December 16, 2019|Jeff Davis
The final, year-long appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020 provides or allows a total of $87.2 billion in gross discretionary budget resources for the U.S. Department of Transportation, a decrease of $393 million (about 0.4 percent) below fiscal 2019, excluding one-time emergency funding.
Overall bill size.
USDOT currently shares an appropriations subcommittee – and an overall discretionary spending allocation – with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And all but $300 million of the funding in the bill counts towards the overall $621.5 billion non-defense discretionary budget cap for 2020. The final subcommittee budget allocation for the Transportation-HUD bill is $74.28 billion. While this is almost $3.2 billion more than last year, it is $1.5 billion less than the House version of the bill and $23 million less than the Senate version. (The budget allocation is $74.277 billion – the total in the joint explanatory statement is $7 million off from the scored total because a $7 million rescission of emergency appropriations does not count.)
This is still an all-time high for the subcommittee, which was formed for the FY 2007 spending process. Those budget allocations above are net after offsets, most of which are HUD mortgage insurance receipts. In terms of gross totals, the FY 2020 final bill has $81.7 billion, a little over $1.0 billion more than last year. The following chart shows the annual final budget allocations for the THUD subcommittee, in gross and net terms, from its inception, through the Peak Obama year of 2010, through the long slide after the GOP took over, and the opening of the floodgates staring in 2018.
The net amount for USDOT that is counted towards the Transportation-HUD Subcommittee’s discretionary spending limitation is $24.7 billion, which is $1.7 billion below last year. Most USDOT funding does not count towards the Appropriations Committee’s funding allocations. Limitations on the obligation of contract authority from the FAST Act increased by $1.3 billion over last year, compliant with the FAST Act. Totals by category are shown below in billions of dollars.
|Discretionary BA (gross)||$26.699||$21.890||$25.466||$25.468||$24.978|
|Rescissions & Offsets||-$0.357||-$0.654||-$0.306||-$0.303||-$0.327|
As usual, a small number of large budget accounts eat up over 90 percent of total USDOT discretionary appropriations (in this case, 91 percent).
Another way to look at the USDOT discretionary budget is by overall function. 56 percent of the gross discretionary funding in the final bill for USDOT goes for air traffic control, another 8 percent passes straight through to Amtrak, and if you combine the various general fund capital grant programs (which mostly go to state or local governments), they add up to 27 percent. The remaining 9 percent is department overhead and other programs (the biggest chunk of which is maritime).
Discretionary add-ons to contract authority programs.
Because the 2018 and 2019 bipartisan budget deals gave so much new money to the Appropriations Committees, they were able to start adding billions of dollars in discretionary appropriations from the general fund to the contract authority grant programs funded by the authorizing committees. The final FY 2020 bill provides $3.08 billion for these programs, down from $4.45 billion in 2019 and $4.36 billion in 2018. (When you add the highway and transit supplements together, highways gets 80.9 percent of that subtotal.)
Comparison to FAST Act authorization levels.
Fiscal 2020 is the final year of the FAST Act of 2020 surface transportation authorization law. The final FY 2020 appropriations measure makes $4.88 billion in discretionary appropriations towards programs that the FAST Act collectively authorized at $5.10 billion for 2020 – a 95.8 percent fulfillment rate. And when you combine the unanticipated general fund supplements with the obligation limitations on Highway Trust Fund contract authority, the appropriations bill provides $60.65 billion in 2020, which is 103.9 percent of the $63.06 billion authorized by the FAST Act. Collectively, the FY 2020 bill provides 103.9 percent of the FY 2020 budgetary resources authorized by the FAST Act for highways, mass transit, rail, and hazmat programs.
A mode-based overview of the bill follows.
The bill provides a total of $48.5 billion in discretionary budgetary resources for the Federal Highway Administration in 2020, $12.6 million more than last year. As scheduled by the FAST Act, the obligation limitation on the highway program increased by $1.096 billion, to $43.365 billion, but the amount of supplementary funding from the general fund dropped by $1.084 billion, to $2.166 billion. In addition, $739 million per year of Highway Trust Fund contract authority is made available to FHWA for obligation completely outside the appropriations process.
The amount of money under the obligation limitation will be spent as directed in the FAST Act, but the $2.166 billion in general fund moneys will be spent as follows:
- $1.150 billion for “a bridge replacement and rehabilitation program.” Each state which does not have at least 5 percent of the deck area of its bridges classified as being in “poor condition” gets a flat $6 million, and the remainder of the money is given to the remaining states “by the proportion that the percentage of total deck area of bridges classified in poor condition in such qualifying State bears to the sum of the percentages of total deck area of bridges classified as in poor condition in all qualifying States…” No state can get more than $50 million of the funding, and the amount that would otherwise go to a state that is maxed out at $50 million will be “redistributed equally among each State that does not meet the definition of a qualifying State.” (Last year, the qualifying state level was 7.5 percent, and there was no money for states that did not qualify – see Table 1 here for what the state shares were.)
- $781.1 million apportioned to states (and D.C.) by formula (the same ratio by which highway obligation limitation for FY 2020 is distributed to states, which should be pretty close to these preliminary percentages) which states can use for the very broad eligible purposes in subsections (b)(1) (“Construction of…highways, bridges, tunnels, including designated routes of the Appalachian development highway system and local access roads”) and (b)(4) (“Construction of…Highway and transit safety infrastructure improvements and programs, including railway-highway grade crossings”) of 23 U.S.C. §133 (surface transportation block grant program) or “to provide necessary charging infrastructure along corridor-ready or corridor-pending alternative fuel corridors designated pursuant to section 151 of title 23, United States Code.” This funding shall be subject to sub-allocation by population except that the transportation alternatives set-aside shall not apply.
- $100 million “for necessary expenses for construction of the Appalachian Development Highway System as authorized under section 1069(y) of Public Law 102–240.”
- $5 million for Puerto Rico ($3.5 million) and territorial ($1.5 million) highway programs.
- $70 million for the nationally significant federal lands and tribal projects program.
- $50 million for competitive grants for rail-highway grade crossings.
- $5 million for the FAST Act section 1441 Regional Infrastructure Accelerator Demonstration Program.
- $5 million “for a National Road Network Pilot Program for the Federal Highway Administration to create a national level, geo-spatial dataset that uses data already collected under the Highway Performance Monitoring System.”
In addition to the usual numbered general provisions in the FHWA section, section 125 again allows states to reprogram “dead earmarks” that have been inactive for more than 10 years and apply the money to projects in the same geographic area within 25 miles. Section 126 repeals some NYC-specific bridge tolling laws. Section 127 strikes the cap on emergency relief in U.S. territories. Section 128 prevents FHWA from using any interim (non-final) guidance on Buy America waivers for waivers submitted before April 17, 2018. Section 129 repeals section 1948 of SAFETEA-LU (something about a bridge in Massachusetts). And section 129A adds clarifies the timing of the maintenance of effort penalty in the National Highway Performance Program’s organizing statute in 23 U.S.C. §119.
In the back of the THUD division (title IV) there is also section 424, rescinding $19.9 million in old discretionary appropriations for FWHA projects (some of which date back almost 50 years), as requested by the Administration, and section 425, which makes some changes in truck weight limits and Interstate designations for some roads in Majority Leader McConnell’s home state of Kentucky.
The final bill provides a total of $12.91 billion for the Federal Transit Administration – the obligation limitation of $10.15 billion on contract authority provided by the FAST Act, and an additional $2.76 billion in appropriations from the general fund. The overall total is $550 million less than the 2019 enacted level – as in highways, although the Highway Trust Fund portion (the obligation limitation) went up by $211 million over last year, total general fund appropriations dropped by $761 million.
The final bill, in section 163, suspends application of the “Rostenkowski Test” self-sufficiency requirement for the Mass Transit Account of the HTF for the entirety of fiscal year 2020, which had threatened to force over $1 billion in pro-rata reductions of Formula and Bus Grant apportionments.
The appropriation to supplement the Formula and Bus Grants account was $510 million, which is $190 million below 2019. That funding is to be spent as follows:
- $413 million for various kinds of grants for buses and bus facilities under 49 U.S.C. §5339: $168 million for formula bus grants under §5339(a), $170 million for competitive bus grants under §5339(b), and $75 million for low-emission and/or no-emission bus grants under §5339(c).
- $40 million for additional formula grants for rural areas under 49 U.S.C. §5311.
- $40 million for additional formula grants to high-population-density states under 49 U.S.C. §5340(d).
- $3 million to operate and maintain a bus testing facility.
- $5.5 million for the innovative mobility solutions program under 49 U.S.C. §5312.
- $8.5 million for competitive grants (to include planning, engineering, development or financing plans for transit projects) for areas of persistent poverty (defined as having a poverty rate of at least 20 percent over the last 30 years).
The bill appropriates $1.978 billion for the FTA Capital Investment Grant program for 2020, which was the Senate number that was $324 million below the House level and $575 million below last year. Neither the bill nor the explanatory statement mentioned specific projects, but when going through other FTA documents, and reading how the bill programs the money between types of CIG projects, here is what we came up with:
(Eagle-eyed observers may note that the Santa Ana to Garden Grove, CA streetcar has its FFGA signed last year but is not on the list – this is because they only needed $149 million from the CIG program, and that has already been paid off using FY 2017 and 2018 appropriations.) While the bill provides $663 million for “new start” CIG projects that don’t; yet have signed grant agreements, the bill does not provide any money for new core capacity projects and only $100 million for the one-off “small starts” program. For an explanation, we have this language in the joint explanatory statement: “Balances from prior year appropriations total $553,538,121 for small starts projects and $648,700,000 for projects authorized under the core capacity program. Based on information from the FT A, the agreement expects that the carryover plus the appropriations provided herein will fund all small starts projects expected to receive a funding-agreement during fiscal year 2020.”
Administration of the CIG program has been a major point of contention between the Trump Administration and Congress. The final bill maintains (in section 166) a provision from the 2019 Act that prevents funds in the Act from being used to implement or further any new policies in the FTA’s June 2018 Dear Colleague letter, and section 165 of the bill prohibits any funding in the Act from being used “to impede or hinder project advancement or approval for any project seeking a Federal contribution from the [CIG] program of greater than 40 percent of project costs.” And the bill requires that 85 percent of the CIG appropriation be allocated (not obligated, allocated) by December 31, 2021.
But other attempts by the House to force more restrictions on the Administration were dropped in negotiations with the Senate (though, in the back of the THUD bill, section 421 of the bill says that no funds can be used in contravention of 49 U.S.C. §5309(d)(2), which could be construed as making it a violation of the AntiDeficiency Act for FTA to fail to advance CIG projects to the Engineering stage – at a minimum it would be a pretext to force GAO investigations of the CIG program, since GAO is the statutory enforcer of the AntiDeficiency Act). The final bill also does not contain anything like section 193 of the House bill, which would have amended title 23 to state definitively that the face value of TIFIA loans shall be counted as non-federal funds for mass transit projects if the loan is repayable from non-federal funds.
The bill once again provides $150 million for a pass-through grant to the D.C.-area WMATA system, even though the authorizing statute for WMATA’s special grants has now expired.
The bill appropriates $117 million for FTA administrative expenses and $5 million for transit technical assistance and training.
The final bill provides $17.6 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration. Funding provided by the bill is broken down by account and by program/project/activity in the following table:
The FAA has three basic missions: operating and maintaining the national air traffic control system, regulating aviation safety, and funding U.S. airport development.
- Air traffic control. On the operational side, the bill provides $7.97 billion to operate the Air Traffic Organization within FAA, $129 million above last year and $193 million over the budget request. The operational activity gets a regular upwards bump every year, but the capital account for the ATO (Facilities and Equipment) often gets stretched out due to budget pressures. The account receives $3.045 billion in the final bill, which is $45 million above last year but $250 million below the budget request. The cuts versus the request come in the NextGen R&D activity $60 million) and from reductions in things like SWIM (System-Wide Information Management, cut $18 million below the request) and ADS-B NAS-wide implementation ($15 million below request). More troublingly, UAS implementation is cut in half from the request, from $58.4 million to $28.4 million.
- Safety. This is the first USDOT appropriations bill run through Congress since the 737 MAX crashes. The bill funds the Aviation Safety activity at $1.404 billion, an increase of $67 million (5.0 percent) above last year. The joint explanatory statement directs that $6.8 million of that is “for the salaries and expenses of additional staff with expertise in human factors, systems safety engineering, software engineering, manufacturing and industrial engineering, data analytics and science, and international aviation safety standards.” Another $3 million of it is “to help organizations around the world understand U.S. safety standards, provide technical training for civil aviation authorities and foreign air carriers, and assist civil aviation authorities safely integrate U.S.-manufactured aircraft into their regulatory framework.” And the safety portion of the Research, Engineering, Test and Development account is increased from a requested $86.8 million to $128.8 million. ($16.5 million of the increase above the request is for UAS research.) Also, one has to believe that the MAX disasters are responsible for the removal of section 119D of the 2019 appropriations act from the final 2020 bill – that section encouraged the FAA to use the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) process on type certifications unless the Administrator documented a specific non-compliance issue. With ODA being thrown into question after the FAA certified the 737 MAX, this provision is no more.
- Airports. The final bill maintains the $3.350 billion obligation limitation on Airport Improvement Program contract authority set by the 2018 FAA reauthorization law, the same as last year and at least the last ten years before that. That amount is supplemented by an additional $400 million from general fund appropriations. But this general fund supplement is $100 million less than last year, and the amount of the flat-lined $3.350 billion per year from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund that is actually used to make grants decreases a bit each year due to increasing administrative and research set-asides, so the total amount of grants will be about $77 million less than in 2019.
Outside the FAA, the final bill appropriates $162 million for the discretionary side of the Essential Air Service subsidy program for airports where scheduled air service is hard to provide profitably. This is matched by an estimated $133 million for the EAS program from mandatory overflight fees.
The final bill appropriates $2.79 billion for the programs of the Federal Railroad Administration, $80 million less than in 2019. The pass-through grants to Amtrak are always the largest chunk of this, and this year they will total an even $2.0 billion, with $700 million going for capital grants to the Northeast Corridor ($50 million above 2019) and the other $1.30 billion going to the National Network ($8.4 million over last year). (Amtrak itself only requested $600 million for the NEC and $1.20 billion for the National Network this year – the levels authorized in the FAST Act – and the Administration requested far less on Amtrak’s behalf.)
There are the usual set-asides from both Amtrak grant accounts, which look like this (in millions of dollars):
|Northeast Corridor||National Network||Total|
|FRA Oversight Set-Aside||3.5||6.5||10.0|
|NEC/SSR Commission Set-Asides||5.0||2.0||7.0|
|ADA Compliance Set-Aside||50.0||0.0||50.0|
|PTC Implementation Set-Aside||0.0||50.0||50.0|
|Replace Single-Level Cars||Unclear||Unclear||100.0|
|Remainder After Set-Asides||1,783.0|
That last set-aside is $100 million “to fund the replacement of the single-level passenger cars used on Northeast Corridor, State Supported Corridor, and Long Distance routes.” The joint explanatory statement amplifies on that, saying “FRA is directed to allow State acquisition costs and on-going capital charges related to Amtrak’s new fleet to be an eligible activity in any future NOFOs for the consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvements and federal-state partnership for state of good repair grant programs by utilizing flexibilities provided in 2 CFR 200.308(d)(l) and by working with the authorizing committees to develop a long-term solution for future shared fleet replacement costs.”
The final bill retains language preventing Amtrak from shutting down the Southwest Chief in 2020. Section 151 of the bill prevents Amtrak from reducing the Amtrak Police Force staff below the May 1, 2019 staffing level. Section 152 expresses the sense of Congress that long-distance passenger routes should be sustained “to ensure connectivity throughout the National Network.” And section 153 of the bill prevents Amtrak from outsourcing in contravention of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act during FY 2020.
The final bill also provides a collective total of $527 million in FY 2020 for the 3 new grant programs authorized by the FAST Act, which is $123 million below the FAST authorized level and $133 million below last year.
|New Intercity Rail Grant Programs Authorized by the FAST Act|
|FY 2019||FY 2020||FY 2020||FY 2020||FY 2020||FY 2020|
|§11302||Fed-State SOGR Partner. Grants||400.0||300.0||0.0||350.0||300.0||200.0|
|Total, New Rail Grant Programs||660.0||650.0||880.0||700.0||557.0||527.0|
Within the CRISI grant program, $45 million is set aside for capital projects (as defined in 49 U.S.C. §22901) that “require the acquisition of rights-of-way, track, or track structure to support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes.”
The bill also appropriates $224.2 million for FRA operations, $40.6 million for railroad R&D, and $2 million for magnetic levitation transportation deployment projects (maglev – the technology of the future for at least the last 50 years).
The final bill does not contain the House-passed provision that would have prevented the Trump Administration from canceling the $929 million fiscal 2020 grant to the California High Speed Rail Authority, nor does it contain the House-passed provision that would have prevented the Trump Administration from trying to “claw back” the $2.5 billion in FY 2009 ARRA high-speed rail money awarded for California high-speed rail that has already been spent.
The final FY20 bill provides $1.0 billion for BUILD multimodal surface transportation grants, formerly known as TIGER grants ($100 million more than last year). Like FY 2019, the appropriators again limit the percentage of total grants that can be awarded to rural areas, essentially mandating a 50-50 urban-rural split, after the Trump Administration started directing two-thirds of its BUILD grants to rural areas in 2017-2018.
Like last year, the bill sets aside $15 million of the total for planning grants that have no minimum grant size. But last year, it was an optional set-aside (“the Secretary may“), so USDOT ignored it. This year, the $15 million is not optional (“the Secretary shall“). And the FY 2020 bill maintains several of last year’s restrictions on the Administration (“the Secretary shall not use the Federal share or the applicant’s ability to generate non-Federal revenue as a selection criteria,” they have to use the Obama Administration’s FY 2017 NOFO’s selection criteria for the FY 2020 grants, the NOF has to be out within 60 days of enactment and grants must be made within 270 days of enactment). Maximum grant size remains at $25 million and the minimum grant sizes remain at $5 million for non-rural grants and $1 million for rural grants. Federal share remains capped at 80 percent for non-rural grants.
The final bill does not contain the House’s set-aside for BUILD grants to areas of persistent poverty.
The final bill provides a total of $989 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2020, $23 million more than last year. The obligation limitations on Highway Trust Fund contract authority are identical to those recommended in the FAST Act ($155.3 million for highway safety operations and research, and $623 million for the various highway safety grant programs.
The general fund appropriation for NHTSA vehicle safety activities is $194 million, $4 million more than last year. This is the same as the Senate appropriation, but the priorities are different (shown below in thousands of dollars):
|FY 2019||FY 2020||FY 2020||FY 2020||FY 2020|
|Research and Analysis||49,000||32,805||48,000||32,805||48,000|
|Total, Vehicle Safety||190,000||151,000||214,073||194,000||194,000|
Of the $48 million for research and analysis, $17.9 million is for vehicle electronics and emerging tech, including autonomous vehicles. Also, the joint explanatory statement orders NHTSA to use leftover FY 2018 funding to “develop a research plan that ensures autonomous vehicles are safe for occupants, other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists” and also to “develop and publish common terminology for the identification of vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems and ‘highly automated’ vehicle systems. Common terminology is not required to be promulgated by a rulemaking.”
The final bill sets aside $500 thousand of the research and analysis funding for a new study for child safety in AVs (similar to a House provision).
Once again, the bill then provides a second general fund appropriation of $17 million for outreach (this time in section 142 of the bill) – in 2020, it’s $10 million for anti-DUI grants, pilot programs, and innovative solutions, and $7 million for a paid-media grade crossing awareness campaign.
The final bill does not contain a House provision (sec. 145 of the House bill) that would have prevented NHTSA and the EPA from finalizing or enforcing the Trump Administration’s “SAFE Vehicle Rule” (rolling back the scheduled increase in fuel economy standards scheduled by the Obama Administration).
The joint explanatory statement for NHTSA also orders NHTSA to complete its current field operational testing of automatic emergency braking technology on heavy trucks and commercial motor vehicles that was initiated in 2018, and to do so by December 31, 2021. Speaking of heavy trucks and CMVs…
Motor carrier safety.
The final FY20 bill provides $679.1 million in obligation limitations on HTF contract authority for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the same as in the Senate bill. The Operations and Programs account receives the $288 million obligation limitation called for by the FAST Act. The Motor Carrier Safety Grants account actually receives an obligation limitation $3.3 million higher than recommended by the FAST Act ($391.1 million in total) – the extra funding is to obligate contract authority provided by SAFETEA-LU or other old authorization laws and is to be divided, $1 million for high priority activities and $2.3 million for CMV operator grants.
In recent years, the House has tried to add new elements of trucking policy to the THUD bill, and the Senate keeps resisting (and winning). This was the case this year as well – the final bill does not contain section 133 of the House bill (no funds to decide petitions to preempt state meal and rest break laws), does not contain section 135 of the House bill (no funds to eliminate the 30 minute rest break), and does not contain section 134 of the House bill (repealing the FAST Act prohibition on making CSA data for carriers public).
Section 132 of of the final bill does require FMCSA to update inspection regulations for rear underride guards, and section 131 of the bill retains a provision from the 2019 law suspending applicability of the electronic logging device rule to trucks carrying livestock or insects.
Pipelines and hazmat.
The bill provides or allows a total of $281.5 million in 2020 funding for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Hazmat programs get a $3 million increase over last year (to $61 million), of which $1 million is for PHMSA to commission a National Academies study of the safety of transporting liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail tank car. This is in lieu of section 428 of the House bill, which was an amendment offered on the floor by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) that would have banned the issuance of permits allowing LNG to travel by tank car (the DeFazio amendment was dropped in conference).
Pipeline safety appropriations were also $3 million above the 2018 level, rising from $165 million to $168 million on the strength of an anticipated increase in offsetting pipeline safety user fees.
The final bill provides $1.05 billion for the Maritime Administration in 2020. $300 million of that is for the Maritime Security Program – unchanged from last year, and easy to predict because it is the only account in the Transportation-HUD bill that is classified as part of the defense budget and thus sticks out whenever the budget allocations are given to subcommittees.
Until last year, the main MARAD operational appropriation account also included activities related to state maritime academies. But in FY 2018, the appropriators had so much money that they started giving $300 million per year to build a new training ship for one of the state academies, so they split off the state academies into their own budget account. Here are the two main MARAD operational accounts in the final bill versus last year (millions of dollars):
|Operations and Training|
|Enviro. & tech. assistance||3.000||3.000||0.000|
|State Maritime Academy Operations|
|Direct payments to SMAs||6.000||6.000||0.000|
|Student incentive programs||2.400||2.400||0.000|
|Fuel assistance payments||3.800||3.800||0.000|
|Total, State Academies||337.200||342.200||+5.000|
In the 2019 law, the appropriators created a new port infrastructure grant program, funded at $293 million (the top priority of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who was the chairman of the House subcommittee last year). (Well, they didn’t actually create it – the program was authorized back in 2006 (46 U.S.C. §50302) but never funded until 2019.) That program is continued in the 2020 bill at $225 million, with no less than $200 million going to coastal or Great Lakes ports. Eligible activities are confined to: port gate improvements, rail or road improvements both within and connected to the port, berth improvements, fixed landside improvements in support of cargo operations, and utilities necessary for safe operations. The federal share of any project’s cost is capped at 80 percent and the minimum grant size is $1 million.
The final bill also provides $20 million for the grant program for small shipyards and $3 million to keep the title XI guaranteed loan program going (there was no money for new loans, just overseeing existing loans).
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