House Jobs Bill Mimics the Stimulus: $27.5B for Roads, $8.4B for Transit

The House is slated to vote as soon as today on a job-creation package that includes $27.5 billion for highways and $8.4 billion for transit, according to a transportation committee document obtained by Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

422093580_050ae3f4c9.jpgHouse transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) (Photo: Bike Portland via Flickr)
That funding divide mirrors the spending levels in this winter's economic stimulus law, which disappointed transit advocates as well as transport panel chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who charged the Obama administration with diverting funding to make room for tax cuts.

Oberstar "strongly supports" the new House legislation, however, according to a committee e-mail sent this afternoon which notes that infrastructure makes up half of the House's $75 billion jobs bill.

The bill's $37.3 billion in spending breaks down along the following lines:

Highways:        $27.5 billion

Transit:            $8.4 billion

Amtrak:           $800 million

Airports:          $500 million

Ship Const.:     $100 million

Total               $37.3 billion

The $8.4 billion number for transit is less than the $9.7 billion in "ready-to-go" projects identified by state DOTs, and slightly more than half the size of the $15 billion in shovel-ready transit spending tallied by the American Public Transportation Association.

Can transit advocates successfully boost the bill's spending levels? The legislation is moving at lightning speed through the House, where a two-month extension of the 2005 federal transportation bill is also expected to pass before the chamber adjourns for the holidays.

But the process may slow in the Senate, where Democrats are still working to finish a health care deal before January. Only after the health bill passes are senators scheduled to turn to jobs legislation of their own.

Oberstar spokesman Jim Berard said in an interview that the new jobs bill's funding allocation is set "to be very similar to the stimulus passed earlier this year. Highways and transit money will be handled through formula grants like we always do, like we did in the Recovery Act."

That likely means that mayors' hopes of getting more local urban input into transportation spending will be put off until another day, with state DOTs disbursing the lion's share of job-creation money. Additionally, talk of more merit-based infrastructure investment through an expansion of the stimulus law's competitive TIGER grant program appears to have fallen by the wayside as Congress hustles towards adjournment.

Oberstar commented on the new transportation spending during a Capitol press conference yesterday afternoon:

Without this investment, the Highway Trust Fund will decline, states will not be able to provide their 20 percent match, and we’ll have a regression.  The House acting on this now assures that states programs will be fully funded, Highway Trust Fund revenues will be invested, the sustainability of job creation will go forward, and we will be gaining jobs rather than losing jobs because of what the House will do in this recovery program.