FY18 Omnibus: Highway Programs

March 22, 2018

The fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations package contains $47.5 billion in budgetary resources for the Federal Highway Administration. The final bill does not rescind any federal-aid highway contract authority.

The legislative text is here and the joint explanatory statement is here.

As expected, the bill provides the exact obligation limitation on federal-aid highway program contract authority called for in the FAST Act of 2015 – $44.234 billion. And the bill does nothing to prevent an additional $739 million in contract authority from being made available outside the obligation limitation.

But in the spirit of spending an additional $10+ billion on infrastructure, government-wide, the bill appropriates an additional $2.525 billion for FHWA programs from the general fund, in addition to the contract authority programs, as follows:

STBGP Formula $1,980,000,000
Puerto Rico Highways $15,800,000
Other Territories $4,200,000
Fed. Lands/Tribal $300,000,000
New Bridge Program $225,000,000
Total GF Appropriation $2,525,000,000

STBGP Formula. The bulk of the extra money, $1.98 billion, is to be apportioned to states in the ratio that states receive obligation limitation distribution in 2018 under the omnibus. That formula won’t be final until after the omnibus is enacted into law, but if you are curious how much money your state will get, you can go to the last interim ob limit distribution under the CR extensions, divide your state’s dollar amount by the subtotal, and multiply the resulting percentage by $1.98 billion. It may not be exact, but it will be pretty close. The money is available for obligation for four years (FY 2018-2021).

The money is eligible to be spent on “construction of highways, bridges, tunnels, including designated routes of the Appalachian development highway system and local access roads under section 14501 of title 40.” 53 percent of the money is to be sub-allocated by population per 23 U.S.C. §133(d). And the bill provides that the takedown under 23 U.S.C. 133(h) shall not apply – and (h) is the transportation alternatives set-aside, so it seems the money can’t go to things like bike paths and beautification.

Bridge program. $225 million is set aside for “a competitive highway bridge program for States that have a population density of less than 100 individuals per square mile.” The bill orders FHWA to calculate density based on the latest Census data. That data is here and about half of the states seem to qualify. The funding is “to be used for highway bridge replacement or rehabilitation projects on public roads that demonstrate cost savings by bundling multiple highway bridge projects.”

Rescissions. The final bill does not contain any rescissions of highway contract authority. (The FY 2017 bill rescinded $857 million and the House bill $800 million.) After last month’s budget deal threw tremendous amounts of money at the appropriators, there was no need to resort to gimmicks to balance the Transportation-HUD books.

Dead earmarks. Section 126 of the omnibus bill once again allows states to reprogram “dead earmarks” and transfer the money to other STBGP-eligible purposes located within 50 miles of the original earmark. In order to be considered dead, an earmark has to be at least 10 years old and have had no more than 10 percent of its available funding obligated.

CMAQ for Amtrak. Section 421 of the bill amends section 149 of title 23 to allow a state to spend its CMAQ highway money on “a State-Supported Amtrak route with a valid cost-sharing agreement under section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and no current nonattainment areas under subsection (d)”.

Toll credits. Section 129 of the bill amends the 1991 ISTEA law to free up excess toll revenues from toll agreements negotiated under the 1987 highway act.

Truck sizes and weights. Section 127 of the bill provides an Interstate truck weight limit waiver for North Dakota for trucks up to 129,000 pounds. Section 129A of the bill grandfathers some Interstate truck weight limits in New Hampshire.

Road designations. Section 128 of the bill designates the Interstate 57 corridor extension in Arkansas and Missouri.

INFRA grants. Section 124 of the omnibus bill requires FHWA to give the Appropriations Committees the same 60-day notice of FASTLANE/INFRA grant selections as they give to the House T&I and Senate EPW panels.

Clearview. Section 125 of the omnibus bill orders FHWA to reinstate approval of the Clearview font for highway signage. For an overly complete look at this dispute, see ETW’s coverage from last July.



Search Eno Transportation Weekly

Latest Issues

Happening on the Hill


Related Articles

Getting Back on Track: Intercity Passenger Rail

Wednesday, November 29 - The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials met to discuss...

Govt. Shutdown Now Postponed to Jan.-Feb.

November 17, 2023 - The earliest that the federal government will close for a lapse-of-appropriations shutdown is now January 19,...