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US budget threatens transit New Starts

President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget, published on 12 February, aspires to a 17.6% reduction in Department of Transportation funding, including elimination of TIGER grants and a wind down of Capital Investment Grants by not entering into any new contracts for federal funding. It also proposes halving Amtrak subsidies.

The programme would have implications for many schemes awaiting approval, including the Durham – Chapel Hill light rail, Minneapolis-St. Paul Southwest and Bottineau light rail lines, Sacramento Streetcar, Orange County Streetcar and New York’s BQX line. In the Seattle area, up to USD1.7bn in funding for light rail projects could be at risk.

However, Congress must approve the budget and both sides of both houses have reservations about the proposed budget, particularly the rise in the federal deficit. This would increase by USD984bn in the next financial year from increasing military, veterans and homeland security expenditure – despite cuts to welfare programmes and leaner budgets across selected Federal agencies.

In early February, in order to prevent a shutdown of the Federal Government, the President signed a two-year bi-partisan budget deal. The congressional budget does not include the cuts mentioned above.

Congress is due to pass a long-term funding package by 23 March.