Trump to sign off on 2020 transportation spending bill

President Donald Trump is expected to avoid a replay of last year by signing off on a $1.4 trillion fiscal year 2020 spending package that averts a government shutdown had Congress failed to meet a Dec. 20 deadline.

The massive funding measure — approved by the House of Representatives on Dec. 17 and by the Senate on Dec. 19 — includes $86.2 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), roughly the same amount allotted to the agency in 2019. More than half of the DOT funding, $46.3 billion, came from the Highway Trust Fund to be used for the Federal-Aid Highway Program, which provides financial assistance for building and maintaining roads in individual states.

Trump’s advisors said earlier in the week that if passed by Congress, he would sign
the legislation by the December 20 deadline.

Funding for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) came in at $679 million, which was contingent upon continuing to exempt livestock and insect haulers from the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was funded at $989 million.

Competitive grants issued under the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program for road, rail or port projects increased by $100 million over fiscal 2019 to $1 billion. Another $1 billion was set aside for transportation projects through Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grants.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) received $2.8 billion, most of which went to maintain Amtrak. FRA’s funding also provides $255 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants and $300 million for federal-state repair grants. Also, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration received $281 million to address safety concerns related to recent accidents involving rail shipments of crude oil.

In response to the grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX fleet, the bill also increases funding for aviation safety by $67 million above the 2019 enacted level. The money is to be used to hire specialized staff and to increase training and credentialing requirements for safety inspectors.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) noted that the $225 million allocated for port infrastructure will be available for improvements to gate operations, roads and rail within and connecting to ports, ship berths and cargo operations.

“Ultimately much more is needed, but this package reflects the association’s ongoing priorities for improving the critical infrastructure that is represented at America’s seaports and will go a long way to enhancing trade and transportation across the nation,” commented AAPA President Chris Connor.

AAPA also pointed out that $104 million within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) budget was aimed specifically at hiring up to an additional 610 CBP officers and agriculture specialists to help ease border trade.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that funds port dredging that allows large cargo ships to access U.S. harbors, received $532 million – a 12% increase over last year – for deep-draft dredging projects. Also included in the Army Corps budget is $378 million for a regional demonstration program to “respond more effectively to critical national dredging requirements” along the Gulf coast between Louisiana and Alabama.