President Obama released a federal budget plan for Fiscal Year 2014 this week that calls for spending of $3.77 trillion. The budget plan would reduce the federal deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years, the White House said.
The FY 2014 budget proposal includes $50 billion for infrastructure investments, including $40 billion to cover what are called “Fix it First” projects; to invest in repairing highways, bridges, transit systems, and airports nationwide; and to provide $10 billion for competitive programs to encourage innovation in completing high-value infrastructure projects.
“The budget invests in repairing our existing infrastructure and building the infrastructure of tomorrow, including high-speed rail, high-tech schools, and power grids that are resilient to future extreme conditions,” the White House added. “These investments will both lay the foundation for long-term economic growth and put workers back on the job now.”
The president’s budget would reduce spending on other infrastructure, including programs designed to finance improvements to wastewater and drinking-water systems.
The budget also seeks to restructure the current Highway Trust Fund by renaming it the Transportation Trust Fund and adding a dedicated funding source for rail. In regards to the Highway Trust Fund solvency, the budget proposes transferring $214 billion over six years to handle the issue and pay for increased outlays in the transportation bill after MAP-21 expires. This could set up the next reauthorization with funding levels 25% higher than its predecessor. However, there is no indication of how the expanded Trust Fund would remain solvent for the long term.
The budget plan also includes $40 billion for rail over the next five years, focused on creating new corridors and improving current networks, including Amtrak. As part of the changes, the budget once again proposes to move Amtrak out from under the annual appropriations cycle and instead allow it to receive grants from the new transportation trust fund. For fiscal 2014, Amtrak would receive $2.7 billion, a large increase over last year’s $1.3 billion appropriation. The budget would also allocate $6.6 billion to the Federal Rail Administration, a large increase from the $1.7 billion it received in fiscal 2012.
The Federal Aviation Administration would see a small increase under the FY 14 proposal with the President proposing $16.4 billion versus the $15.8 billion enacted last year. However, the capital grants program sees a cut in the Obama proposal with $2.9 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, compared with the $3.4 billion it received in FY13. To account for the cuts, large hub airports would be able to increase the non-federal Passenger Facility Charge; however there is no language on how much these fees can or should be increased.
In a statement this week, ASCE Presdient Gregory E. DiLoreto, P.E., P.L.S, D.WRE, praised the 2014 budget proposal and its focus on investing in America’s transportation infrastructure:
“The American Society of Civil Engineers applauds President Obama’s continued push for robust transportation funding, including $50 billion in immediate investments to address highway repair and construction, airports, rail projects and other transportation initiatives.
“While this proposal certainly is a step in the right direction to bolster investment levels in transportation, it’s critical that the administration put forth a clear road map with long-term funding solutions.
“In the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, we awarded our country a D+. Transit, roads and aviation all received a dismal grade of D. These grades are unacceptable for our nation and must be backed by dedicated funding sources and innovative solutions at all levels of government if we hope to see improvements.
“It’s time for all leaders from all parties to invest in America’s future to assure we have a strong foundation for an ever-changing 21st century economy.”