Looking Ahead to the New Year for Transportation.

As many people people experienced the stress of holiday travel over the past weekend, it seems like a good time to look at the future of transit and high speed passenger rail in Texas and beyond.

After tense debates and many rewrites, a new transportation bill has been enacted to fund the US Department of Transportation until September 30, 2012. Virtually the only area to receive increased funding is the Federal Transit Program, getting  $331 million more for a total of $10.6 billion. This program supports transit programs from major regional systems to local, rural providers.

The TIGER program (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) was also renewed, at $527 million, a reduction of $27 million from last year. Competition for future projects will now be even tighter, and TxDOT has submitted for $93.8 million (more details in this previous post). Texas has been a beneficiary of this program in the past, receiving funding for  Tower 55–one of the biggest rail bottlenecks in the country–and the preliminary engineering and environmental work for the Dallas to Houston high speed passenger rail line.

Texans from north to south can give thanks for the $5.6 million dollars awarded from USDOT to TxDOT for planning and environmental work on the Oklahoma City to South Texas High Speed Passenger Rail line. However, the new federal transportation bill for 2012 includes no funding for High Speed Passenger Rail. Previous funding for the program under the stimulus package and 2010 allocations totaled $10.5 billion. Work will proceed for projects that have already received funding. Next year’s funding decisions come after the election, so it’s anyone’s guess what comes in 2013 and afterwards.

Kari Banta, Transportation Associate

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