House Transportation Bill Would Hold Spending Below
October 29, 2015 (IN10379)
Robert S. Kirk
Robert S. Kirk, Specialist in Transportation Policy (email@example.com, 7-7769)
On October 22, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) approved and ordered reported the
Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (STRRA; H.R. 3763). The T&I bill provides only
those spending increases the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has determined are needed to cover projected
inflation in the cost of the existing surface transportation program. Unlike the Developing a Reliable and Innovative
Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act; H.R. 22), adopted by the Senate on July 30, 2015, STRRA does not increase
spending beyond this CBO "baseline."
The two bills have important similarities, which might simplify negotiations should the House pass STRRA and should
both chambers agree to a conference committee to reconcile their differences:
Both bills would provide for six-year authorizations (FY2016-FY2021). Both bills would provide only three years
of full funding for the Highway Trust Fund, requiring Congress to come up with new revenues or spending
offsets starting in FY2019.
Both bills would create new discretionary programs administered by the Department of Transportation. STRRA's
Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program (NSFHP) would be funded at a higher level,
averaging $740 million annually, whereas the DRIVE Act's Assistance for Major Projects program would
average $525 million. Both bills provide for a discretionary competitive grant program for buses and bus
Both bills would make major reductions in the amounts available to support leveraged funding under the
Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, which provides loans and loan
guarantees for large transportation infrastructure projects. The FY2014-FY2015 authorized amount for TIFIA
was $1 billion annually. Under STRRA the annual amount would be $200 million, and under DRIVE the amount
would be $300 million. However, under STRRA, the administrative and subsidy costs associated with TIFIA
loans would be an eligible expense under two of the large formula programs as well as the NSFHP program.
TIFIA would be eligible for funding under Assistance for Major Projects under the DRIVE Act.
With the exception of changes to the Surface Transportation Program (STP), much of the formula program
structure for highways would remain similar to existing law, although some eligibility requirements have been
modified. For public transportation, formula funding would retain its current program structure.
However, the two bills have a number of significant differences:
STRRA would rename and modify the Surface Transportation Program, the second-largest single source of
highway funding, as a "block grant" program. However, unlike some other block grant programs, the Surface
Transportation Block Grant Program would not provide the states with unrestricted lump sums of money.
STRRA does not include railroad funding provisions, whereas Title XXXV of the DRIVE Act would authorize
increased funding for Amtrak and for grants to states for rail infrastructure and safety projects. However, the
House has previously passed legislation dealing with passenger rail issues (the Passenger Rail Reform and
Investment Act of 2015, H.R. 749), which conceivably could be reconciled with corresponding provisions of the
STRRA does not include funding for a separate federal freight program. DRIVE would fund a new formula
National Freight Program, at $11.6 billion over the life of the bill.
STRRA does not identify any of the budgetary offsets needed to offset the general fund transfers to the HTF; the
DRIVE Act does, for the first three years.
STRRA closely maintains the current division of funding between highway programs and public transportation
programs. The DRIVE Act would increase public transportation funding at a somewhat faster rate than highway
funding (Table 1).
The spending level in STRRA is identical to that in CBO's March 2015 baseline projections. The DRIVE Act would
provide funding that would total roughly $16 billion above baseline levels over the six-year life of the bill; by FY2021,
spending for highway programs would be 6.4% above the CBO baseline, and spending for public transportation
programs would be 10.3% above baseline.
Table 1. STRRA (H.R. 3763) and DRIVE Act (H.R. 22) Highway And Public
Transportation Spending (Obligations) Compared to CBO's Baseline
(Current $ in Millions)
Federal Highway Administration
Difference from Baseline
Federal Transit Administration
Difference from Baseline
Source: Federal Highway Administration, Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 22, STRRA,
Note: Obligations include CBO projected annual obligation limitations plus annual "exempt"
obligations of $739 million (includes $100 million in Emergency Relief program funding).
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) amounts do not include General Fund authorizations.
FTA also receives significant General Fund dollars mostly for the New Starts program.
Under STRRA, New Starts authorization would increase from $2,029 million in FY2016 to
$2,237 million in FY2021. Under DRIVE, New Starts authorization would rise from $2,301
million in FY2016 to $2,590 million in FY2021.