Highway and port groups applauded a vote by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that maintains highway funding in the face of proposed House cuts and adds more grants that can be used for port projects.
The plaudits came after the panel voted for a fiscal 2012 transportation budget that includes $41.1 billion for federal aid to state highway and bridge projects. That is the same amount enacted for the budget year expiring Sept. 30.
And the panel approved $550 million for next year in what the Department of Transportation calls “TIGER” grants. They are discretionary awards given to competing projects based on regional or national importance and are separate from other transportation accounts.
That action “comes in stark contrast to legislation passed two weeks ago by the House transportation appropriations subcommittee to cut federal highway and transit funding by 34 percent for next fiscal year,” said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
The American Association of Port Authorities alerted its members to the news that the measure also includes another round of TIGER grants that would have $23 million more to award than this year. “AAPA has continually advocated for TIGER discretionary grants and has met with key Senate staff to make the case for including them in appropriations measures,” the group said.
The first such grants totaled $1.5 billion and were in the 2009 stimulus program. The DOT called them TIGER for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. The 2010 budget contained $600 million more, and the DOT will award another $527 million under its 2011 allocation.
It has spread the awards among freight rail, road, aviation and marine port infrastructure plus passenger and pedestrian facilities.
Horsley urged the full Senate committee to pass the bill and quickly send it to the Senate floor for passage. The AAPA said it will keep pressing for TIGER funding as Senate and House bills are reconciled.