On Jan. 29, the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees voted to fully fund Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) at authorized levels of $39.1 billion for the highway program and $8.97 billion for transit. The vote comes on the heels of a letter signed by 72 senators urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to include an additional $4 billion in transportation funding during fiscal 2007. Specifically, the letter asked the senators to ensure that the yearlong fiscal 2007 continuing resolution (CR) includes funding levels consistent with SAFETEA-LU. A major concern was that by not providing the full funding, state departments of transportation would have to cut back on their scheduled allowances for the coming year, which would undermine efforts to meet growing transportation needs and impact jobs.

“It's good to see that after a two-year delay in passing the transportation bill, Congress is backing up its commitment to fully fund transit and highway programs through SAFETEA-LU,” says Jeffrey M. Levy, president and CEO, RailWorks Corp., New York, N.Y. “Many much-needed transit projects are ready to go. This long overdue funding will get a number of vital, new transit projects started and create lots of new jobs in the process.”

Proponents of the increase in spending feared that Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., intended to pass a CR that would exclude earmarks and freeze funding at fiscal 2006 levels. For fiscal 2007, the House and Senate committees added $3.4 billion for the federal-aid highway programs and $474 million for transit programs over the fiscal 2006 levels.