Experts say the United States badly needs to invest significant sums in its crumbling roads and bridges, congested airports, and aging infrastructure. Yet, in its newly released 2020 budget proposal, the White House has requested just $21.4 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Transportation—which represents a $5.9 billion or 22% funding decrease from fiscal 2019 to 2020.
In regards to surface transportation infrastructure, the White House said the 2020 budget proposal fully funds Highway Trust Fund-supported programs at levels that are consistent with the fifth and final year of the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, signed into law in December 2015.
The five-year, $305 billion FAST Act, at the time of its signing, represented the first law enacted in more than ten years to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation, with states and local governments able to move forward with critical transportation projects like new highways and transit times.
The White House said it looks forward to working with Congress to enact a long-term successor to the FAST Act, explaining that, “a long-term bill is necessary to provide certainty to America’s state, local, and private partners so they can plan and invest in projects with confidence.”
Developing and building transportation infrastructure projects through competitive programs to generate large investment returns remains a core focus of the White House’s planning and was made clear in the latest budget proposal. This is already intact through its Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) competitive grant program, which replaced its successor, the TIGER grant program, in April 2018. The new budget proposal allocates $1 billion for BUILD.
During a press conference, Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, noted: “We must provide our state, local and private partners—who build, own and operate the vast majority of the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure—the long-term funding certainty they need to effectively plan and deliver projects.”
House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said the proposal to decrease transportation funding would “shirk federal responsibility when it comes to our nation’s infrastructure.”
State funding packages, such as California’s landmark Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, infuse transportation projects with much-needed investment, helping to mitigate federal budget shortfalls. SB 1 is a job creator that invests $54 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways and bridges in communities across California and puts more dollars toward transit and safety.