Congress Takes First Steps on Obama’s Transpo Budget: The Details

The House panel in charge of annual transportation spending has begun work on a bill that increases transit funding while providing $150 million for D.C.'s cash-strapped Metro and $150 million for the Obama administration's inter-agency push for "sustainable communities."

olver.jpgRep. John Olver (D-MA), chief of the House transport spending committee (Photo: Wikimedia)

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would receive nearly $10.5 billion -- about $100 million more than last year -- in the transportation and housing bill released last night by Rep. John Olver (D-MA), chairman of the House spending panel.

The extra money for "sustainable communities" work and for D.C. Metro, which suffered a fatal crash last month, would come on top of that FTA budget.

In addition, high-speed rail would receive $4 billion, four times the president's request for 2010, with half of that pot set aside for use on a national infrastructure bank, should Congress and the administration agree on one.

Olver's bill leaves one question notably unanswered, however: where Congress and the White House will find cash to keep road programs afloat after the nation's highway trust fund runs short of cash next month.

"While it is neither this committee’s making nor this committee’s responsibility to fix, the uncertainty surrounding the solvency of the trust fund hinders this bill’s ability to provide more than modest increases in many transportation infrastructure programs," Olver's office said in a statement.

The bill allots $41.1 billion for highways, a 1 percent increase over last year's spending level, but none of that cash is identified as coming from the government's general fund -- a move that congressional leaders likely will have to make by month's end.

The House appropriations committee will vote on the measure Friday, with consideration by the full chamber slated for later in the month.