Wednesday, January 15, 2014

FY14 appropriations good for TIGER, Amtrak

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Congressional conference committee members cobbling together an actual fiscal year 2014 federal budget have reportedly agreed on budgetary numbers fairly favorable to Amtrak and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) programs. Federal high speed rail funding, however, is omitted entirely.

Amtrak's FY14 budget numbers include $340 million for operations, and $1.55 billion for capital (including debt service); up to $50 million in capital can be "reassigned" to operating needs if necessary.

The appropriations bill does mandate Amtrak "policy reforms," including limits on employee overtime and the ban of federal support for Amtrak routes offering a discount fare of 50% or more of the regular cost, except for when states or other fiscal supporting entities cover the difference.

TIGER funding, used for Small Starts and New Starts projects, increases 20% from FY13 to $600 million.

No federal money is budgeted for any U.S. high speed rail efforts, including California.

About $53.5 billion in "non-discretionary 'obligation limitation' funding" is identified for highways, transit and safety, and airports, based in part on expected receipts from the federal Highway Trust Fund, giving states and agencies some leeway in modal investment.

The bill also includes $185 million for the Federal Railroad Administration to hire 45 more employees to help increase track inspections, a measure sought by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in reaction to the Metro-North derailment last month in the Bronx, N.Y., which killed four and injured 76. 

"For the first time since 2011, no mission of our government will be left behind on autopilot," said Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) in a statement Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014.