When I saw the administration's budget proposals for roads and water — more money for the former, less for the latter — my first response was: once again, commerce trumps the environment.

But then I changed my mind.

The Federal Highway Administration would get $336 billion of the surface transportation program's $556 billion allocation. The plan allocates monies - $53 billion - directly to high-speed rail for the first time and 128% more to "sustainable and efficient" transit options (which I hope includes our inner cities' bus and subway operations).

Then I saw there'd be 7.5% less in Community Development Block Grants and that the U.S. EPA's 13% decrease includes $947 million less for drinking and wastewater loans but $28 million more to try to prevent another BP oil spill.

Hmmm, I thought, another instance of delaying investment in out-of-sight, out-of-mind assets for political expediency?

But maybe there's an opportunity here.

Like the stimulus program, the administration's budget plan rewards efficiency. Really, that's what "sustainability" is all about: processing the same volume of intake water, influent, garbage, and vehicles using less oil, electricity, and natural gas.

The proposal doesn't explicitly say projects that relieve congestion will get priority, but a National Infrastructure Bank would provide $5 billion in grants and loans for complex regional solutions. A competitive program called the Transportation Leadership Awards would support "unique projects that find new ways to connect people to opportunities and products to markets."

Whether you think the stimulus package was a scam or a blessing, the fact is that some of you assembled applications that enabled your state to meet Green Project Reserve requirements for water and wastewater projects. Though road managers told me their state kept most DOT allocations, some convinced the state to rearrange stimulus-funded projects to benefit local needs.

Remember, though: these figures and strategies pertain just to the administration's proposal. Who knows what Congress will deliver.As always, please feel free to agree, disagree, or just say hello at sjohnston@hanleywood.com.