Senate Panel Backs $1.2B for High Speed Rail, $1.4B Extra For Highways

The Senate panel in charge of transportation spending has just released its version of the budget bill that passed the House last week, giving less to high-speed rail and more to highways than the lower chamber of Congress.

The Senate's transportation bill, shepherded by senior appropriator Patty Murray (D-WA), provides $1.2 billion for the Obama administration's high-speed rail initiative -- $200 million more than the White House's budget request, but significantly less than the $4 billion that the House set aside for that purpose.

Highways, by contrast, got $41.1 billion from the House but $1.4 billion extra from the Senate, for a total of $43.5 billion in spending. Transit would get $480 million more than the White House requested, along with a $150 million infusion for the cash-strapped D.C. Metro system.

Senators matched their House counterparts on funding for the administration's inter-agency "livable communities" project, which is aimed at encouraging transit-oriented development. And the Senate outdid the House on rail safety, providing the $50 million in grants for technology upgrades that was sought by two senior Democrats after the D.C. Metro crashed  last month.

The Senate's total spending on both transportation and housing for 2010: $122 billion. The bill released today is expected to be merged with the House product sometime in the fall before heading to the president's desk.