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Congress saves transportation programs from Trump's proposed cuts

Congress saves transportation programs from Trump's proposed cuts
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Congressional leaders unveiled a spending deal on Monday that would preserve funding for transportation programs that President Trump targeted for cuts.

The fiscal 2017 omnibus spending bill, which would keep the government running through September, would provide $19.3 billion for the Department of Transportation (DOT). That figure is $681 million above current levels and $6.2 billion below the president’s request, according to a summary sheet.

Trump’s budget, released earlier this year, would have slashed the DOT budget by 13 percent, or $2.4 billion.

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The omnibus deal would also preserve current funding levels for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program, which was set up by the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus package to provide an extra injection of cash for surface transportation projects.

Trump proposed entirely eliminating the grant program, which Republicans have unsuccessfully sought to cut in previous spending proposals. Congress appropriated the grants every year, but they were never authorized.

The administration’s spending blueprint also would limit funding for the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Capital Investment program and end federal support for an Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidy program in rural communities.

But the congressional spending pact unveiled Monday would actually increase funding for the FTA program by $236 million and maintain funding for the EAS program.

“Transit ridership remains high, with over 10.5 billion trips per year … but transit systems across the country are struggling to keep up with maintenance while also expanding their systems in order to meet current demand,” a summary sheet says.

“These projects help ease commute times, save fuel, reduce emissions, and connect Americans to opportunities for work and services that they need every day.”

The spending deal also points out some of the “harmful riders dropped during conference,” including a provision to prohibit the Federal Railroad Administration from conducting oversight of the California high-speed rail project or reimbursing the state for incurred costs.

It also drops a provision that would have overturned state rules governing truck driver meal and rest breaks, which supporters said was necessary to avoid a messy patchwork of state laws.

Under the spending deal, the Federal Aviation Administration would get $16.4 billion, including more than $1 billion for the agency’s NextGen modernization program.

The legislation also provides additional money for grants to implement Positive Train Control technology, crude-by-rail safety initiatives and automated vehicle technology.