The U.S. Senate fiscal year (FY) 2015 spending bill gives U.S. DOT $536 million more than the agency got this year. That's enough to fund the two-year surface transportation bill that President Obama signed in 2012, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" (MAP-21), but not to avert last-minute transfers from the Treasury Department to keep the Highway Trust Fund from going broke later this year.

According to the American Society for Civil Engineers, the "MAP-21 Reauthorization Act" (S. 2322) includes:

  • $40.3 billion for highways (same as FY 2014)
  • $11.1 billion for transit ($310 million above FY 2014; $221 million for transit capital investment grants)
  • $550 million for TIGER grants ($50 million less than FY 2014)
  • $15.9 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration ($126 million above FY 2014)
  • $1.39 billion for Amtrak (same as FY 2014)

According to the American Public Works Association, the legislation reauthorizes federal-aid highway programs to FY 2020 at current funding levels plus inflation while maintaining current formulas.

It retains and/or builds on some of the major changes instituted in MAP-21 (click here for more detail about how the changes are working out in the field):

Faster project delivery. MAP-21 established a categorical exclusion for projects receiving less than $5 million of federal funds. This bill establishes a categorical exclusion for projects of limited federal funding each fiscal year to changes in the National Highway Construction Cost Index.

Program consolidation. The National Highway Performance Program, the Highway Safety Improvement Program, the Surface Transportation Program, and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program remain the core programs.

In addition, the proposal:

  • Increases opportunities for investment in rural areas by bundling small projects together.
  • Creates the annual American Transportation Awards to reward state and local governments for improving performance and delivering projects ahead of schedule and under budget.

"The remaining challenge is how to pay for this effort, as well as how to break out of the status quo and grow the program in a manner consistent with the documented the needs of the surface transportation system," says American Council of Engineering Companies President David A. Raymond. "We’re not there yet, but this is a welcome first start.”