Senate Supporters Restore 80-20 Funding Split in Transportation Bill

Public transit champions in the Senate have prevailed in their campaign to restore an 80-20 split between highways and transit in the Senate’s hotly negotiated surface transportation bill.

Democratic staffers on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee were reporting that the initial draft of the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act was based on a 94-6 split in capital funding for new projects, translating to roughly $3.2 billion for the highway account and $200 million for transit.

Senators committed to smart transportation planning were successful in their fight to increase funds for new transit programs to $815 million, restoring the traditional 80-20 split. “We fought back an effort to shortchange American commuters who depend on public transportation to get to their jobs and contribute to the economy,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

For those of you keeping track at home, the revised DRIVE Act now directs $35.8 billion in general fund subsidies for highway projects, and $11.3 billion for transit programs. It is tempting to focus on the negative, concluding that it says nothing good about U.S. infrastructure policy that we consider winning back an 80-20 split between highways and mass transit a “victory.” However, it’s important to note that the DRIVE Act also includes the Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act of 2015 (R2E2).

“NARP has worked closely with senators and committee staffers in drafting [R2E2]. It is not a perfect bill, but it is a huge leap forward in instituting a concrete framework for passenger rail predicated on growth, not contraction,” said NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews. “And it was created in a thoroughly bipartisan way, so we have every expectation that the Senate will advance this bill in as timely a fashion as possible.”

Click here to read NARP’s full analysis of the bill.