Congress Agrees to Keep Transit Operating Aid in War Bill

House and Senate negotiators struck a deal last night on a $106 billion war spending bill that also gives cash-strapped transit agencies the ability to use 10 percent of their economic stimulus grants to pay operating costs.

The issue of operating costs has heated up in recent weeks, with local transit officials supporting federal aid as a step towards more equitable funding consideration of all transportation modes.

Critics of the idea contend that it is disingenuous to bill stimulus money for transit operating as a short-term response to the economic recession -- or as Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) put it last week, "there is nothing more permanent than a temporary government program."

But despite Latham's skepticism, the deal is done. The final version of the war spending bill, with the transit operating aid provision intact, is expected to become law as soon as next week.