High-Speed Rail Funds Get Slashed in Detailed Budget Plan

Just when we thought transportation had gotten off relatively easy in the shutdown-aversion budget deal:

House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY). Image: ##http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2006/Harold-Rogers-Pork14may06.htm##Mindfully##

The House Appropriations Committee has released details [PDF] on the budget agreement between the two houses, including more information on the agreed-to $38.5 billion in cuts. Where we’d heard before that high-speed rail was getting a $1.5 billion haircut, down to the $1 billion for 2011 that President Obama had originally requested, it turns out now that that last billion dollars is being cut too. And to add insult to injury, they’re also zeroing out $400 million of rejected Florida rail funds (technically cutting funding from 2010), bringing the grand total of HSR cuts to $2.9 billion.

This is a big blow to one of the president’s signature projects, with which he was planning on “winning the future.” It further clouds the outlook for his $53 billion proposal for high-speed rail over the next six years, starting in 2012. These budget cuts, of course, are for FY2011, before the $53 billion was to start, but please believe the Republicans aren’t looking for a massive increase in rail money for next year either.

TIGER, which had appeared to be safe, is getting $72 million cut from its $600 million budget, and the Appropriations Committee eliminated all funding for “planning, preparation or design” of projects eligible for TIGER funding. For now, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities appears to be safe.

Meanwhile, New Starts transit funding, already slated for $280 million in cuts, is now getting $502 million cut from its $2 billion budget, with another $128 million coming out of Amtrak grants for capital improvements and debt service. They’ve also cut $3.1 billion in highway contract authority that had not been obligated, as opposed to the $2.5 billion cut announced Friday night.

  • Brandi

    This is a sad day for transit advocates. I’m going to have to say that HSR is dead. I can’t believe the went as far as to rescind money from last year. I don’t understand how this is a compromise? Transit and High Speed Rail get completely decimated with highways get off easy? Looks like they caved in 100% to Republican demands. Obama truly is the caver-in-chief.

  • Brandi

    Actually the funnier part about this is that it happens just when gas prices are reaching an all time high. There’s gotta be no better time to increase our dependency on oil right?

  • Steve D

    I would say that this is not the death knell for HSR. They were still granting money from FY 2010 recently, and this won’t be like starting from zero when they start on the 2012 budget. It will be an uphill battle to be sure, but because of the overlap of stimulus funds and 2010 grants, it’s not quite the same as zeroing out a program and then trying to revive it next year.

    That said, folks will need to speak out when we move on to the 2012 budget.

  • Mark Walker

    The future has no future.

  • So is that a roughly equal amount cut from highways vs. buses and trains? Parity! Of course, percentage-wise, it’s a much smaller cut to transit.

  • poncho

    have to get CA HSR under construction ASAP, late 2012 is too far away.

  • Alon Levy

    Do you mean that percentage-wise it’s a larger cut to transit?

  • Alon Levy

    Apparently, they didn’t rescind money from last year – they only rescinded money from the continuing resolutions of the last few months.

  • Rob

    “They’ve also cut $3.1 billion in highway contract authority . . .” That isn’t a budget cut, but rather a recission. So the story is ZERO cut from highways and $502M from the New Starts $2B budget? At least we have the comfort of knowing that our highways will continue to be expanded.

  • Rob

    “They’ve also cut $3.1 billion in highway contract authority . . .” That isn’t a budget cut, but rather a recission. So the story is ZERO cut from highways and $502M from the New Starts $2B budget? At least we have the comfort of knowing that our highways will continue to be expanded.

  • Rob

    “They’ve also cut $3.1 billion in highway contract authority . . .” That isn’t a budget cut, but rather a recission. So the story is ZERO cut from highways and $502M from the New Starts $2B budget? At least we have the comfort of knowing that our highways will continue to be expanded.

  • Rob

    “They’ve also cut $3.1 billion in highway contract authority . . .” That isn’t a budget cut, but rather a recission. So the story is ZERO cut from highways and $502M from the New Starts $2B budget? At least we have the comfort of knowing that our highways will continue to be expanded.

  • Anonymous

    Well we’ve been hearing since 2008 that the only “responsible” thing to do in the face of financial crisis is commit economic suicide by ceasing all spending on anything having to do with the future: education, health care, infrastructure, etc. This will make “investors” “confident,” we’re told. Once the USA is on par with other leading third world nations in all the above categories, we’ll be so much better off. (I always hated indoor plumbing and literacy anyway.) On the plus side, bicycle ridership will certainly go up as bikes become the only form of transportation anyone can afford.

  • Tom

    Many seem to think the money was cut to be spent elsewhere. We do not have the funds and now way has been found a way to accumulate them other than HSR being subsidize by borrowing money from our grandchildren. If it is viable then private industry will build it and they riders come. Having been through several benefit-cost analysis I have a hard time seeing how real cost savings, i.e. benefits, is equal to the cost.

  • John Dough

    Oh no…. This is definitely the beginning of the end for HSR. No way is Congress going to cut entitlements and not cut this low hanging fruit….

  • John Dough

    99.99% of Americans are highway customers and less than 1% are rail customers. If you were on the Board of Directors of both (a congressman), which of those businesses would you shut down?

  • John Dough

    This is a good start.

  • egk

    @ John Dough: I assume you mean your statistics as “not factual” since about 10% of American households don’t have cars, and and 10% of Americans get to work in a way other than by car. Your own experience might not be universal – some of us live in cities in which there are – yes! – actually more rail “customers” than highway “customers”

  • I don’t know of any transportation system in the U.S. that is “viable” by your definition. The interstate highway system that private car-owners drive on is subsidized by the government in both its construction and its maintenance. The “user fees” from the gas tax have NEVER covered the cost of construction/maintenance of the interstate system. And the airline industry is also heavily subsidized by the government, both in bailouts of airlines and in the government money investment in airport construction and maintenance.

    You are holding High Speed Rail to a standard that no other existing major transportation system has met. If we followed your criteria and didn’t invest taxpayer money unless the system was viable for private companies to build and operate for profit, we wouldn’t have freeways or airlines, either.

  • John Dough

    @egk

    Those 10% that don’t have cars… How do they get to work? Helicopters? Levitation? Hovercraft? Rowboat?

    Otherwise, if they use buses, bikes, skate boards, sneakers, roller skates…they probably are highway customers at some point. Even at-home workers use roads once it a while, don’t you think? How do you rail travelers in those big cities get between your hones and your train stations? How do you get to work when you get off ge train?

    Look up travel statistics and you’ll see that rail travel accounts for an insignificant share of total travel.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

GOP Moves Ahead With Deep Cuts to Transportation, Housing

|
The House Appropriations Committee voted last night to move ahead with deep spending cuts, totaling $32 billion, to the remainder of the FY2011 budget. It’s still not the $100 billion the GOP wanted to cut, and some committee Republicans voted no, saying the cuts were still too small. Tell that to Americorps volunteers, who will […]

GOP Appropriations Bill Would Turn TIGER Into a Roads Program

|
As the president’s transportation proposal fades from the news cycle and we eagerly await the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s six-year reauthorization bill, here comes the House Republicans’ proposed budget for transportation and housing for next year. Note: What the House GOP released yesterday wasn’t an authorization bill but an appropriations bill for 2015. […]

Senate Offers a More Multi-Modal 2014 Transportation Budget Than the House

|
Last week, a House panel envisioned some big cuts to next year’s transportation budget. TIGER and high-speed rail would get nothing, Amtrak would get slashed, and ixnay on all that green “livability” crap. (And that’s practically a quote.) The Senate Appropriations Committee voted this morning on the budget its own transportation subcommittee put together, and the end […]

2012 Transpo Budget: Sustainable Communities and HSR Out, TIGER In

|
Remember those radically different appropriations bills passed by the House and the Senate? And how I said they’d never come together, and they probably would never pass a 2012 budget anyway because all Congress ever does anymore is extend previous budgets because they can’t agree on anything? Well, color me wrong. House and Senate members […]

Senate Saves a Sliver For High-Speed Rail

|
President Obama had sought $8 billion for high-speed rail in 2012. The House-passed budget had exactly zero. The Senate bill approved by the Transportation subcommittee Tuesday followed suit. But the full Appropriations Committee yesterday put $100 million back into next year’s budget for the president’s signature transportation initiative. That’s still starvation wages for the program, […]