Congress rebuffs president, fully funds 2017 transportation grants
President Trump signed the budget deal reached by Congress for fiscal 2017 last Friday. The omnibus spending bill maintains crucial funding levels for transportation, rejecting proposals the president had made to slash funding in several key areas—including transit and rail investments. Such cuts would have jeopardized a number of projects and services in the South, and put the future of many others in doubt.
The programs targeted by Trump are essential to providing cleaner transportation options and building strong local communities. Among other things, the President proposed to stop the pipeline of federal funding for transit construction projects and to eliminate the TIGER grant program that supports transit, rail, and other projects focused on economic redevelopment. The spending bill signed late last week does not contain these cuts.
The concern now is that the budget deal only addresses the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. We will be working to counter even deeper cuts in transportation funding President Trump has proposed for the 2018 fiscal year—including eliminating Amtrak service in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
The question of future federal funding was a hot topic in North Carolina’s Triangle region last week and highlights the stakes in transportation budget negotiations. As various municipalities consider their commitments to a regional light rail system, many worried whether the federal government will keep its funding commitment. SELC and various constituencies advocating for this cleaner transportation alternative have been out in force highlighting the local support for the $1.8 billion investment. The completed light rail will link 18 stations along a 17.7-mile rail line, connecting the University of North Carolina, Duke University and North Carolina Central University. Federal funding is expected to cover half the final cost; if this funding is lost the project will stop in its tracks.