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Biden Budget Holds Billions for Transit, Other Projects

The U.S. Department of Transportation is set to have a record-high budget of $142 billion as the sprawling agency ramps up infrastructure spending on roads, bridges, rail lines, ports and more.

An excavator in a new railway tunnel.
Shutterstock/David Jancik
Projects advancing public transit, micromobility and even strengthening the nation’s supply chain distribution system are set to receive significantly increased new funding in the coming months from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The landmark legislation is a cornerstone of the budget submitted to Congress by President Joe Biden. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s request totals $142 billion, a $37 billion increase as a result of the advance appropriations from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

“This will represent the second year of historic levels of funding for the department,” U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg told reporters during a media briefing Monday to discuss the president’s budget proposal.

The budget includes some $21.1 billion for the Federal Transit Administration to support new and expanded transit service for all communities. Some $4.4 billion has been identified to help fund 15 major transit projects in seven states. This includes $250 million for the Los Angeles East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Project and $150 million for a 12-mile bus rapid transit project in San Antonio.

“Both of which will bring much-needed transit service to their growing communities,” said Trottenberg.

Nearly $18 billion will be invested in the Federal Railroad Administration to include funding for Amtrak “to reverse decades of underinvestment in passenger rail, and begin the important work to reducing the repair backlog, and modernizing the American passenger rail system,” said Trottenberg.

When it comes to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure projects, “we’re going to have an opportunity to fund a lot more of those projects on the competitive side across the country,” Trottenberg remarked.

State departments of transportation will be able to use the surface transportation block grant program for bicycle and pedestrian facilities, said Stephanie Pollack, deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration.

The Set Aside Grant Program, meanwhile, is a portion of the surface transportation grant program that has to be used on “transportation alternatives,” Pollack explained to reporters.

“And that program has grown substantially under the bipartisan infrastructure law,” she added. “And the money in that program is for smaller-scale, often bicycle and pedestrian facilities.”

The new program to develop a nationwide network of high-speed chargers for electric vehicles will get $1 billion this year. The initiative was allocated $7.5 billion by the infrastructure law, to be distributed in the next five years. Another $400 million will be earmarked for grant programs to accelerate charging opportunities in rural and underserved communities.

The nation’s supply chain infrastructure — in the form of ports and other facilities — will see some $680 million in grants.

“The budget will include a strong emphasis on investing in major projects that will reduce costs for American families by providing affordable transportation options, and by modernizing our supply chains to make it easier and less costly to get goods from ships to shelves to your front door,” said Trottenberg.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.


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