Finance President

How the Next Budget Stacks Up

Huge budget provides billions to transportation, but doesn’t appear to mark sea change in vision for U.S. mobility

The Obama administration has officially released its budget outline, which provides a summary of how the federal government will spend money in fiscal year 2010 (from July 2009 to July 2010). It also provided some information about how it intends to use its limited funds over the next 10 years. Here is what we know so far:

  • The bill will “increase” funding to public transit, focusing on public transportation’s environmental benefits,
  • It will provide $1 billion a year for at least five years for high-speed rail, above the $8 billion already authorized from the stimulus bill
  • It will form a national infrastructure bank, such as Mr. Obama proposed during the campaign, which will be funded by $5 billion in appropriations over the next 5 years

Note that the information we have right now is the preliminary budget outline. This means that it is not detailed since the final bill has yet to be written, and that the administration may choose to change certain aspects of the bill in consultation with members of the House and Senate. It will also of course have to be approved by the Congress to enter into the law.

The budget does promise increased funding for mass transit, something I’m excited to hear… but we’ll have to wait to see the official figures over the next few weeks. It is unclear whether discretionary funding for transit will increase over SAFETEA-LU-mandated levels, based on gas tax receipts. The budget’s inclusion of a 5-year fund for high-speed rail is a good sign, but unfortunately for the U.S. treasury, it’s going to cost a lot more than that to actually build fast train lines. In order to fund the future of intercity rail in the country, we’re going to have to keep asking for more funding on rail.

The table below summarizes transportation funding in Obama’s proposed budget with those in Clinton’s proposed 2000 budget, Bush’s proposed 2008 budget, and the actual expenditures by the U.S. government in fiscal year 2008. I’ll update the table on the transport politic as I receive more information about funding for transportation programs over the next few weeks.

Proposed ’00
Proposed ’08
Actual ’08 Proposed ’10
Program $B
Highways $31.4 58.8% $39.6 59.1% $42.2 60.1% $ ? % ?
Amtrak $0.6 1.1% $0.8 1.2% $1.3 1.9% $ ? % ?
Rail Grants $0.0 0% $0.1 0.1% $0.0 0% $1.0 1.4 %
FTA $6.1 11.4% $9.4 14.0% $9.5 13.5% $ ? % ?
» Formula $4.9 9.2% $7.9 11.8% $7.8 11.1% $ ? % ?
» Capital $1.1 2.1% $1.4 2.1% $1.6 2.3% $ ? % ?
DOT Overall $53.4 $67.0 $70.2 $72.5

One reply on “How the Next Budget Stacks Up”

Do you have real-world numbers from another country (Japan, France, Germany, Spain) on how much it costs to construct HSR?

It would also be good to know the real YoY operating cost for HSR to set expectations appropriately.

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