APPROPRIATIONS FOR FY1999: DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORATION AND RELATED AGENCIES
CRS Report for Congress
Appropriations for FY1999:
Department of Transportation and
Updated December 1, 1998
Science, Technology, and Medicine Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Appropriations are one part of a complex federal budget process that includes budget
resolutions, appropriations (regular, supplemental, and continuing) bills, rescissions,
and budget reconciliation bills. The process begins with the President’s budget
request and is bounded by the rules of the House and Senate, the Congressional
Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (as amended), the Budget
Enforcement Act of 1990, and current program authorizations. Customarily, each of
the 13 individual appropriations bills is considered and processed as a discrete
measure. On occasion, however, Congress may choose to bundle these bills into an
omnibus appropriation, containing two or more initially discrete appropriations bills.
Each of these bills is then represented as a separate title within the omnibus measure.
FY1999 funding for a broad range of government programs is contained in the
omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 4328), originally introduced to fund the Department
of Transportation (DOT) and Related Agencies. Based on the conference report
(H.Rept. 105-825), published in the October 19 Congressional Record, DOT funding
appears as Subsection 101(g) of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency
Supplemental Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1999 (P.L. 105-277, October 21,
For a further breakdown of individual department and agency funding, refer to
the index provided at [http://www.congress.gov/homepage/omni.html].
The text of this report is a guide to of the original (DOT and Related Agencies)
appropriations bill for FY1999. It is designed to supplement the information provided
by the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Transportation
Appropriations. It summarizes the current legislative status of the bill, its scope,
major issues, funding levels, and related legislative activity. The report lists the key
CRS staff relevant to the issues covered and related CRS products.
This report is updated as soon as possible after major legislative developments,
especially following legislative action in the committees and on the floor of the House
NOTE: A Web version of this document with
active links is available to congressional staff at
Appropriations for FY1999: Department of Transportation
and Related Agencies
For FY1999, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requested total
funding of approximately $43 billion, a 1% increase over the FY1998 enacted level
of $39 billion. The FY1999 budget request for the DOT was similar in many respects
to the FY1998 appropriation.
There are many “macro” issues or factors that are influencing the debate over the
Administration’s FY1999 budget request. Some of them have been carried over from
the previous fiscal year. Complicating the budget process had been the delay
associated with reauthorizing many of the Department’s programs.
The recently concluded reauthorization of surface transportation programs will
dramatically effect the FY1999 appropriations process. The Transportation Equity
Act for the 21 Century (P.L. 105-178, TEA21) provides for an increase in spendingst
at a level above that contemplated in the Administration budget request. In addition,
the new legislation provides a new budget environment for highway and transit
programs that limits the ability of the appropriations process to alter spending for
In its FY1999 request, the Administration reiterated that safety is its highest
priority, followed by technology development, environmental enhancement,
infrastructure needs, and innovative financing. The budget proposal included requests
of: $3.1 billion for direct safety funding; $30.0 billion for infrastructure investments;
$1.1 billion for transportation research and development (R&D); and $0.6 billion for
Amtrak (See CRS Issue Brief 97030).
On July 15, 1998, the Senate Committee on Appropriations reported S. 2307
(S.Rept. 105-249). The committee recommended total funding of approximately $47
billion for FY1999. S. 2307 was passed by the Senate on July 24, 1998. Few
amendments were made, excepting one controversial proposal to bar the use of
federal funds to impose “project labor agreements” on highway and transit fund
projects. A compromise substitute was offered.
The House Appropriations Committee reported its own bill (H.R. 4328, H.Rept.
105-648) which would have provided a total of $46.9 billion, an amount $4.8 billion
greater than FY1998 and $3.9 billion greater than the amount requested by the
Administration. The committee voiced its objections to the impact of TEA21
legislation, whose “firewalls” significantly limited its latitude in funding. According
to the report, “These ‘firewalls’ make it virtually impossible for the Appropriations
Committee to make downward adjustments to those funding levels in the annual
appropriations process over the next 5 years.”
By July 31, both the House and Senate had passed their respective bills; the
House bill was referred to the Senate; the Senate substituted its own language; and
the House requested a conference on the substitute amendment. See the “Most
Recent Developments” section of this report for the latest legislative action.
Area of ExpertiseNameDivisionTel.
Automotive SafetyDuane ThompsonSTM7-7252
Federal Aviation AdministrationJames G. MooreSTM7-7033
Transportation Infrastructure PolicyJohn FischerE7-7766
Federal Highway AdministrationWilliam LipfordE7-7764
Federal Railroad Administration and AmtrakStephen JE7-7771
Surface Transportation BoardStephen JE7-7771
Federal Transit AdministrationWilliam LipfordE 7-7764
Highway and Truck SafetyPaul RothbergSTM7-7012
U.S. Coast GuardJames E. MielkeSTM7-7007
Division abbreviations: E = Economics; STM = Science, Technology, and Medicine.
Most Recent Developments........................................1
Introduction ................................................... 2
Status ........................................................ 4
Key Policy Issues................................................5
Surface Transportation Infrastructure Policy.......................5
Technology ................................................ 7
Safety .................................................... 8
Major Funding Trends........................................9
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)..........................11
Amtrak .................................................. 12
Amtrak Reform Council..................................12
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)........................13
Federal Transit Administration (FTA)...........................14
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)..........................15
Operations ............................................ 15
Facilities and Equipment..................................15
Research, Engineering, & Development......................16
Grants-in-Aid for Airports................................16
Peanut-Free Buffer Zone.................................16
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)...........17
For Additional Reading..........................................19
CRS Issue Briefs...........................................19
Selected World Wide Web Sites................................20
List of Tables
Table 1. Status of DOT Appropriations, FY1999.......................4
Table 2. Department of Transportation Appropriations, Obligations, Limitations,
DOD Transfers, and Exempt Obligations Subject to the Appropriations
Process .................................................. 10
Table 3. Total Budgetary Resources of Selected Agencies/Offices.........18
List of Figures
Figure 1. DOT Funding Request for FY1999..........................4
Appropriations for FY1999: Department of
Transportation and Related Agencies
Most Recent Developments
Funding for Department of Transportation programs was contained in the
President’s budget submission, issued in February, 1998. For FY1999, the U.S.
Department of Transportation (DOT) requested total funding of $43.3 billion, a 1%
increase over the FY1998 enacted level of $42.8 billion. Hearings on the budget
request were held in transportation subcommittees of the House and Senate
Appropriations Committees. In a related development, many of DOT’s surface
transportation programs were recently reauthorized by the Transportation Equity Act
for the 21 Century, generally referred to as TEA-21 (P.L. 105-178, June 9, 1998).st
Both the House (H.Con.Res. 284) and the Senate (S.Con.Res. 86) passed their
respective versions of the budget resolution and subsequently held a conference.
H.Con.Res. 284 provided the following amounts of budget authority and outlays for
FY1999: $44.3 billion (BA) and $42.1 billion (BO). S.Con.Res. 86 provided for the
following amounts during the same period: $51.5 (BA) and $42.8 (BO).
In a related development, on June 9, 1998, President Clinton signed the
Transportation Equity Act for the 21 Century (TEA 21) into law (P.L. 105-178, H.R.st
2400). The law provides authorization for appropriations for DOT’s agencies and
programs for fiscal years 1998 through 2003. TEA 21 affects virtually all of the
Department’s surface transportation agencies, ranging from the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration to the Coast Guard. The impact of its provisions have
been addressed in other sections of this report.
On July 15, 1998, the Senate Committee on Appropriations reported out S.
2307, Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for
1999 (S.Rept. 105-249). The report recommends $13,694,249,000 of new budget
obligational authority for the Department of Transportation. This amount represents
approximately $340,000,000 more than the Administration’s request, and almost $1
billion more than the enacted amount for FY1998. In conjunction with
$32,234,800,000 estimated obligation limitations (generated from trust funds), the
total obligational authority is approximately $45.9 billion.
On July 24, with few substantive floor amendments, the Senate passed its
version of the DOT appropriations for FY1999. One provision, relatively
controversial between the Administration and Congress, however, was dropped from
the legislation. That provision, which drew a veto warning from Administration
officials, would have barred the use of federal funds to impose “project labor
agreements” on highway and transit fund projects. A substitute amendment appears
to have served as a compromise, permitting passage.
On July 22, 1998, the House Appropriations Committee reported H.R. 4328
(H.Rept. 105-648) The bill provides for a total of$46.9 billion (new budget
authoruty, guaranteed obligations contained in the TEA21, limitation on obligations
and exempt obligations) for FY1999. This amount is $4.8 billion greater than
FY1998 enacted levels, and $3.9 billion greater than the Administration’s FY1999
On July 30, 1998, the House passed H.R. 4328, also with few substantive
amendments. H.R. 4328 was referred to the Senate, which amended the bill by
inserting S. 2307 after the enacting clause.
On September 17, 1998, the House and Senate passed H.J.Res. 128, a
continuing resolution to fund, until October 9, 1998, any government activity that
would have otherwise been funded by an annual appropriation.
Following the enactment of five subsequent continuing resolutions, the House
passed the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act,
for Fiscal Year 1999 on October 19, 1998. On October 21, the Senate passed the
The conference agreement provided approximately $47 billion in FY1999 for
federal transportation programs — an amount 12% greater than the FY1998
funding, 9% more than requested by the Administration, and about$150 million
more than that included in the House bill. The amount for some DOT programs
(including Federal Highways and Mass Transit) was virtually insured by funding
“firewalls” that had been placed in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st
For the complete legislative text of the Omnibus Act as it appears in the
October 19, 1998 Congressional Record, Members and staff should see the following
Internet Web site: http://www.clerkweb.house.gov.
Transportation budgeting uses a confusing lexicon (for those unfamiliar with the
process) of budget authority and contract authority — the latter, a form of budget1
authority. Contract authority, provides obligational authority for the funding of trust
fund financed programs, such as the federal-aid highway program. Prior to TEA21,
changes in spending in the annual transportation budget component had been achieved
in the appropriations process by combining changes in budget/contract authority and
placing limitations on obligations. The principal function of the limitation on
obligations is to control outlays in a manner that corresponds to congressional budget
Much of this section was taken from, CRS Report 98-749 E, entitled The Transportation1st
Equity Act for the 21 Century (TEA21) and the Federal Budget, by John W. Fischer,
September 4, 1998.
Contract authority is tantamount to, but does not actually involve, entering into
a contract to pay for a project at some future date. Under this arrangement, specified
in Title 23 U.S.C., which TEA21 amends, authorized funds are automatically made
available to the states at the beginning of each fiscal year and may be obligated
without appropriations legislation. Appropriations are required to make outlays at
some future date to cover these obligations. As will be discussed, TEA21 greatly
limits the role of the appropriations process in core highway and transit programs
because the Act sets the limitation on obligations level for the period FY1999 through
Highway and transit grant programs work on a reimbursable basis: states pay for
projects up front and federal payments are made to them only when work is
completed and vouchers are presented, perhaps months or even years after the project
has begun. Work in progress is represented in the trust fund as obligated funds and
although they are considered “used” and remain as commitments against the trust fund
balances, they are not subtracted from balances. Trust fund balances, therefore,
appear high in part because funds sufficient to cover actual and expected future
commitments must remain available.
Both the highway and transit accounts have substantial short- and long-term
commitments. These include payments that will be made in the current fiscal year as
projects are completed and, to a much greater extent, outstanding obligations to be
made at some unspecified future date. Additionally, there are unobligated amounts
that are still dedicated to highway and transit projects, but have not been committed
to specific projects.
Two terms are associated with the distribution of contract authority funds to the
states and to particular programs. The first of these, apportionments, refers to funds
distributed to the states for formula driven programs. For example, all national
highway system (NHS) funds are apportioned to the states. Allocated funds, are
funds distributed on an administrative basis, typically to programs under direct federal
control. For example, federal lands highway program monies are allocated; the
allocation can be to another federal agency, to a state, to an Indian tribe, or to some
other governmental entity. These terms do not refer to the federal budget process,
but often provide a frame of reference for highway program recipients, who may
assume, albeit incorrectly, that a state apportionment is part of the federal budget per
For FY1999, the DOT requested total funding of $43.259 billion, about a 1.0%
increase from the FY1998 enactment of level $42.828 billion. The Department’s
FY1999 budget request was similar in many respects to the FY1998 appropriation.
The agencies targeted for gains include (in descending order): the Maritime
Administration (+35.3%); The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(+21.92%); Research and Special Programs Administration (+16%); Federal Aviation
Administration (+7.0%); Federal Railroad Administration (+2.6%); Office of the
Secretary (+2.4%); and the U.S. Coast Guard (+2%). Those whose budget request
were reduced for FY1999 included (in descending order): St. Lawrence Seaway
Development Corporation (-100%); Federal Transit Administration (-1.38%). The
budgets for the Office of the Inspector General and the Surface Transportation Board
are set at the FY1998 level.
Figure 1. DOT Funding Request for FY1999
This report analyzes the FY1999 budget request and final action from a number
of perspectives. First, funding proposals for several national transportation priorities,
such as safety, national security, infrastructure needs, and technology development,
are highlighted and selected policy issues associated with these are presented.
Second, historical funding trends are analyzed. Third, highlights of the FY1999
budget request for several key modal administrations, such as the Federal Highway
Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the U.S. Coast
Guard, are summarized.
Table 1. Status of DOT Appropriations, FY1999
Markup ApprovalHouse House Senate Senate Conference
H.R.H.Rept.S.Rept.H.Rept 105-P.L. 105-
Key Policy Issues
One of the major challenges facing appropriators continues to be the allocation
of funds for the U.S. Department of Transportation among numerous competing
national interests. Competition for these funds stems from various transportation
interests, and from the modal administrations themselves seeking portions of the
“transportation pie.” Monies have been allocated for a diverse array of purposes, for
example, to pay for the expenses of the U.S. Coast Guard, to improve safety across
the transportation system, and to help finance various infrastructure needs. In the
DOT and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, monies are also provided to support
the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Surface Transportation Board
(STB), and several other transportation-related agencies.2
The perennial question of priorities surrounds the appropriations process.
Throughout its budget request, the DOT continues to emphasize several priorities
including: safety, infrastructure, innovative financing, environmental enhancement,
technology, and national security.
Much of the appropriations process must take place within the newly enacted
framework of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), signed
into law on June 9, 1998 (P.L. 105-178, H.R. 2400). The act, which authorizes
appropriations for key transportation programs through the fiscal year 2003,
emphasizes certain programs and de-emphasizes others. The general sense of
Congress appears to be that, although transportation trust funds are not sacrosanct,
proceeds from the gasoline tax must be targeted towards the maintenance of the vast
U.S. highway and transit network, and not viewed as a source of revenue for the
general treasury. Although attempts to move highway and transit programs “off-
budget” were unsuccessful, Congress did insert language within TEA21to protect
specific funding by creating “fire walls” around programs. In addition to spending
ceilings, the fire walls effectively create floors. The creation of these devices emerged
as a point of contention between authorizers and appropriators.
Surface Transportation Infrastructure Policy
The Administration requested a total of approximately $30.0 billion for FY1999.
This requested increase occurred in spite of the limitations placed on domestic
discretionary spending by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Since many
discretionary budget allocations were reduced, the increase in transportation
infrastructure spending is regarded as a strong policy statement on the part of
Congress and the Clinton Administration that infrastructure is a policy priority.
In each of its budget submissions, the Clinton Administration has sought to
emphasize its commitment to improving the nation’s infrastructure. Increased
DOT proposed that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) be fully funded by user fees in2
FY1998. The STB and its predecessor, the Interstate Commerce Commission, have never
been fully funded by user fees. For further information, see CRS Report 96-67 E, entitled The
Surface Transportation Board (STB): An Overview and Selected Public Policy Issues, by
Stephen J Thompson.
infrastructure spending to enhance national productivity and competitiveness was a
policy feature of both of the President’s election campaigns. The Administration’s
FY1999 budget request is predicated on a continuation of this policy at least in spirit.
The Administration makes the case in its budget document that the FY1999
budget request would compliment the spending increases that have occurred earlier
in this decade. The Administration view is that transportation infrastructure spending3
at the $30.0 billion level envisioned in its request would provide the highest level of
infrastructure spending in DOT history. In addition, the Administration takes
considerable credit for some improvements in transit capacity, airport capacity, and
highway condition that have occurred in recent years. Finally, the Administration
contends that it has accomplished all of these advances and provided for future
improvements in a fiscally responsible manner.
In reality the Administration’s FY1999 request is very similar to the levels of
funding provided in the FY1998 Act. This is very much the result of the Balanced
Budget Act of 1997. The Administration request has now been somewhat superceded
by passage of TEA-21. By signing this legislation the Administration has agreed to
a somewhat higher level of spending for surface transportation in FY1998 then it had
proposed earlier in the year. In addition, the Administration has agreed to much
higher levels of spending in the period FY1999-FY2003.
One of the principal provisions of TEA-21 is a change in the budget treatment
of the highway and transit programs. This new legislation sets a limitation on
obligations for program spending in each of the next 6 fiscal years and does so by
creating “fire walls” that prevent reductions in spending below agreed upon levels.
This action deprives the House and Senate Appropriations Committees of their
traditional authority to determine the absolute level of spending for these programs.
Instead the committees now control spending of only a small portion of the highway
and transit programs.
Over the last several years the Administration has attempted to find more funding
for infrastructure by changing the way infrastructure was financed. To accomplish
this objective in FY1999, the DOT proposed to continue supporting State
Infrastructure Banks (SIBs) at the $150 million level and to finance a new
Transportation Infrastructure Credit Program at the $100 million level for FY1998.
The SIB program combines federal/state/private funding to help finance a variety
of transportation improvements, such as toll roads and intermodal terminals.
Although the SIB program had been adopted by 10 states, with an additional 15
expressing interest, the program was reduced to four states by language in TEA21.
Examples of innovative financing include a proposed new Transportation
Infrastructure Credit Program intended to leverage federal dollars and encourage
private sector investment in projects of national significance that may be too large to4
attract local capital. The Administration also is trying to improve the efficiency of
U.S. DOT. Budget in Brief — FY1999. p. 8.3
U.S. DOT. Budget in Brief — FY1997. p. 5.4
federal funds distribution. In dollar terms, however, the Administration’s efforts to
promote innovative financing represent a small portion of the total DOT budget.
The Administration proposed to spend about $1.1 billion on transportation
research, development and technology activities during FY1999. This amount
represents about a 10% increase over the FY1998 level for those activities. The
support of research and technology activities is not a goal in and of itself, but it
underpins the other functions of the Department. For example, DOT seeks to apply
the results of its research and development activities to improve safety, enhance
mobility, further an intermodal transportation system, promote economic growth and
trade, and support national security. The three largest components of the FY1999
Research, Development and Technology budget request are for: FHWA’s program
($582 million), FAA’s program ($334 million), and NHTSA’s program ($53 million).
Increased investment in research and development continues to be a key theme of the
Clinton Administration and this emphasis has been reflected in the Department’s
budget during the last few years. It remains difficult to decide on the amount of funds
for the numerous R&T activities at the Department, especially when these decisions
are considered within the context of the other funding needs.
DOT is involved in a variety of technology programs, including the Partnership
for a New Generation of Vehicles, the National Advanced Driving Simulator, and the
Advanced Technology Transit Bus. One of the largest R&T activities is the
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program. The FY1999 request for this
multifaceted activity that involves each of the surface transportation modes within the
Department is $250 million. These funds would support a comprehensive research
and demonstration program and deployment initiative. That initiative is designed to
stimulate investments in a variety of ITS technologies, such as traffic surveillance,
crash avoidance systems, and safety monitoring for commercial motor vehicles. The
actual amount of FY1999 contract funds authorized for ITS is set in the TEA21 law.
For FY1999, that act provides $95 million for research, development, operational
tests and other activities considered to be part of the core departmental ITS program.
TEA21 also authorizes $105 million of contract funds for ITS integrated deployment
projects. The overall highway obligation limitation will reduce the amount of funds
actually made available for those activities. P.L. 105-277 provides a total of
$200,000,000 to be available for implementation of the various ITS program specified
in TEA-21. With an obligation limitation of 88.3 percent for FY 1999, that amount
is effectively reduced to $176.6 million.
The Federal Railroad Administration requested that funding for the Next
Generation of High Speed Rail Program be reduced from about $20 million in
FY1998 to about $12.6 million in FY1999. The Senate Appropriations Committee
recommended $28,494,000 for this program. For FY1999, the Coast Guard
requested $18 million for research, development, testing and evaluation. Funds were
requested for technologies, materials, and human factors research to improve the
Coast Guard’s mission performance and delivery of services to the public.
Safety continues to be claimed as the Department’s highest priority. DOT’s
request for various transportation safety programs for FY1999 is $3.1 billion, an 11
percent increase over the FY1998 level. Substantial increases are requested for the
safety activities of several modal administrations, including: the Federal Aviation
Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and
the Federal Highway Administration. Each year debate continues over the perennial
question regarding funds for safety relative to other functions of the DOT.
DOT sought to promote public health and safety by working toward the
elimination of transportation-related injuries, deaths, and property damage. Funding
was requested to increase safety using a variety of approaches, including: rulemaking,
compliance efforts, public education and outreach, and direct operations (such as
vessel traffic services). In FY1999, some of the activities intended to achieve the
Department’s safety goals include: requesting additional personnel for the FRA’s
Office of Safety, promoting public-private partnerships to demonstrate cost-effective,
safety technologies, such as intelligent vehicles; and advancing research exploring
causes of, and countermeasures for, transportation incidents in all modes of
Spending for NHTSA’s highway safety programs was intended to increase by
22%, from $333 million in FY1998 to $406 million in FY1999. Increased funding for
grants and research to improve the protection of automobile occupants was
requested: $31 million was proposed for the President’s initiative to increase seat belt
use; and $10.2 million was proposed for safety systems research which supports
improvements in vehicle structures and occupant protection. The 1998 Department
of Transportation Appropriations Act provided $186,500,000 for obligations for
highway traffic safety grants, and $146,962,000 for operations and research, for a
total of $333,462,000 for NHTSA’s activities. The conference bill ultimately
provided $159.4 million for NHTSA operations and research, and $361.4 million total
for all of NHTSA’s activities. TEA21 sets specify contract funding levels for the
various traffic safety grants administered by NHTSA. TEA21 also sets an
authorization level for NHTSA Section 403 research program and for NHTSA’s
various motor vehicle-related activities, which together form much of the Operations
and Research account of NHTSA. Consequently, TEA21 will likely have a
substantial impact on setting the overall NHTSA budget and appropriation during
FY1999 through FY2003. P.L. 105-277 provides $ 159,400,000 for NHTSA’s
operations and research account and $2,000,000 for the National Driver Register, and
limits obligations for highway traffic safety grants to $200,000,000.
The debate on the FY1999 budget request has focused partly on the
Administration’s funding priorities. Some Members, however, chose to focus their
interests on other priorities, such as local needs for roads, transit and airports. The
debate leading to passage of TEA-21 is indicative of these concerns. Passage of this
legislation has created new issues for the appropriations process. Primary among
these is the new budgetary treatment of highway and transit spending. The TEA-21
limitation on obligations for these activities restricts the ability of the transportation
appropriations committees ability to meet their 302(b) goals by requiring all that all
adjustments in spending be made in other program categories.
Finally, enactment of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) has
compelled DOT, along with other agencies, to reconcile their spending requests and
programs/projects with their more fundamental strategic and performance goals.
Major Funding Trends
Table 2 shows historical funding levels for FY1988 through FY1998 (actual and
enacted) and FY1999 request for the Department of Transportation. Almost all of
these funds are provided by new budget authority or a limitations on obligations in the
DOT appropriations act. Total DOT funding increased approximately 66% from5
FY1988 through FY1998 (enacted).
The following information from DOT shows actual, estimated, and requested
appropriations, obligations limitations, DOD transfers, and exempt obligations subject
to the appropriations process (in millions of dollars). According to a DOT
spokesperson, this information does not include user fee collections; consequently,
program totals may vary from other figures cited in the text.
Starting in the early 1990s, about $300 million of the funds shown in Table 1 were5
transferred from the DOD Appropriations budget to DOT. These monies are used to support
Coast Guard activities. The amounts requested for FY1998 are provided in Table 3.
Table 2. Department of Transportation Appropriations, Obligations,
Limitations, DOD Transfers, and Exempt Obligations Subject to the
(in millions of dollars)
The Administration requested $4.1 billion for the Coast Guard in FY1999. This
was up 2.2% over FY1998 and maintains the same trend since FY1996. The budget
request would have allowed the Coast Guard to continue its activities against drug
smuggling and to recapitalize aircraft and vessel fleets to meet the President’s national
security goals. Of this amount, $2.8 billion would have been for operation and
maintenance of a wide range of ships, boats, aircraft, shore units, and aids to
navigation, including $309 million in defense-related funding. The Administration
requested $67 million to train, support, and sustain a ready military Selected Reserve
Force of 7,600 members for direct support to the Department of Defense and to
provide surge capacity for responses to emergencies such as clean-up operations
following oil spills.
Other Coast Guard requested funding included $61 million for spill clean-up and
initial damage assessment, available without further appropriation from the Oil Spill
Liability Trust Fund. No funds were requested for boat safety grants because these
would be funded from appropriations from the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund.
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $3.7 billion for the Coast
Guard, 1.1% less than the budget request, but 0.9% more than enacted for FY1998.
Of this amount, operating expenses would be funded at $2.8 billion, including $300
million in national security activities scored against defense funding. Environmental
compliance and restoration ($21 million), retired pay ($684 million), and reserve
training ($67 million) would be funded at the level of the request. Acquisition,
construction and improvements would be decreased from the request (from $442.6
million to $388.7 million) and research, development, test, and evaluation would be
decreased from $18.3 million to $17.5 million.
The House passed an appropriation of $3.887 billion for the Coast Guard which
is $29.4 million less than FY1998. Operating expenses were funded at $2.7 billion
including $300 million in national security scored against defense spending. This
would also include $406 million for drug interdiction activities, which is an increase
of $33.8 million over the President’s request. Increases in this area would be offset
by reductions in fisheries law enforcement and polar ice breaking. Acquisition,
construction, and improvements were funded at $389 million and environmental
compliance and restoration at $21 million. $684 million was appropriated for retired
pay and $69 million for reserve training. Research, development, test and evaluation
would receive $12 million.
The conference agreed to an appropriation of $3.9 billion for the Coast Guard,
which is $21.0 million less than FY 1998. Operating expenses were funded at the
House level of $2.7 billion of which $300 million shall be available for defense-related
activities This is $15.4 million less for operating expenses than FY 1998. However,
the Secretary may transfer funds from the Federal Aviation Administration
“Operations” account, not to exceed $71.7 million, for drug interdiction activities.
Acquisition, construction, and improvements is funded at $395.5 million, of which
$20 million shall be derived from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. There was no
disagreement between the Houses over either environmental compliance and
restoration or retired pay. The House-approved levels of $69 million were
appropriated for reserve training and $12 million for research, development, test, and
evaluation. Alteration of bridges received $14 million and no funds were appropriated
for boat safety.
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
The Administration requested $751 million for the Federal Railroad
Administration for FY1999, compared to a FY1997 actual obligation of $1.1 billion,
and an FY1998 enactment of $937 million. The most notable reduction, $172 million
from the FY1998 amount, was the lower request for funding Amtrak (CRS Issue
Brief 97030) and the Northeast Corridor. The Northeast Corridor is the rail route
from Boston to Washington, DC. The House Appropriations Committee
recommended $729.3 million for FRA for FY1999, including $609.2 million for
Amtrak. The Senate recommended $707 million, including $555 million for Amtrak.
Congress appropriated $749.8 million to FRA for FY1999, including $609.2 million
for Amtrak, and allowed Amtrak to decide how much of its appropriation will be used
to upgrade the Northeast Corridor.
Amtrak (see CRS Issue Brief 97030) receives its funding as part of the FRA
account. The Administration requested that FY1999 funding for Amtrak come from
the Federal Highway Trust Fund, rather than from the general fund as in past years.
The Administration requested $621 million for capital grants to Amtrak, of which not
less than $200 million would have been for the Northeast Corridor, and $12 million
for Penn Station in New York City. The Administration requested no funding for
operating grants for Amtrak for FY1999, proposing that sufficient operating funds
could come from capital grants.
The House recommended $609.2 million for Amtrak for FY1999, plus $2 million
for a third freight track in Rhode Island to give Amtrak a separate line from freight,
and $15.3 million for “next generation high speed rail” that would remove grade
crossings on rail passenger routes and provide other funding that benefits rail
The Senate recommended $555 million for Amtrak for FY1999. This was a total
of $1.6 billion when coupled with the $1.1 billion Amtrak will receive in FY1999
without further legislative action as a result of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (P.L.
105-34). The committee bill (S. 2307) included language to allow the capital funds
provided in the bill to be spent under the same definition of capital expenses that
currently pertains to federal capital funds provided for other transportation modes.
This use of capital funds for capital expenses could come to $400 million during
FY1999, according to the committee report (S.Rept. 105-249, pp. 120-121). The
committee recommended that $200 million of the $555 million be used for upgrading
the Northeast Corridor. The New York Pennsylvania Station is to get $40 million as
a result of the TEA-21 highway reauthorization legislation (P.L. 105-178). Congress
appropriated $609.2 million to Amtrak for FY1999, and allowed Amtrak to decide
how much of that will be used to upgrade the Northeast Corridor. The Committee
report rejected the proposal to allow Amtrak to use capital grants for equipment
maintenance in the same way federal transit funds can be used, but the report set no
specific limit on the amount of federal capital grants that Amtrak can use for
equipment maintenance during FY1999. The funds are to come from the general
fund, as in past years, rather than from the Highway Trust Fund, as proposed by the
Administration. Congress appropriated no funds for the Penn Station redevelopment
in New York City. Congress appropriated $20.5 million for “next generation high
speed rail” and $5 million for the Rhode Island freight rail project.
Amtrak Reform Council. The Amtrak Reform Council, established by the
Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-134), is given additional
responsibility by the report language of the Senate Appropriations Committee for
FY1999. The Council is directed to help Amtrak reach its financial goals and
decrease reliance on federal aid by identifying which Amtrak routes are candidates for
closure or realignment, and the Council is directed to report this information to
Congress annually (p. 25). The Council is prohibited by the committee report
language from using any of the Council’s appropriation to pay for outside consultant
services, since, the report states, the members of the Council were selected because
of their technical qualifications, professional standing, and demonstrated expertise in
areas related to the needs of the Council (p. 24). Congress appropriated $450,000 to
the Amtrak Reform Council for FY1999. The conference report is silent on the above
issues that are addressed in the Senate committee report.
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
The highway section of the FY1999 Appropriations Act provides an obligation
limitation of $25.5 billion for highway program activities. This is an increase of over
$4.0 billion over the FY1998 Act and is consistent with the levels authorized by the
Transportation Equity Act for the 21 Century (TEA21). An additional $1.2 billionst
in exempt obligations is provided by the Act. 6
The FY1999 Act provides for a few modest changes in the highway program,
but generally follows the program guidance provided in TEA21. One important
provision in the Act is a clarification of TEA21's distribution of high priority project
funds. The Act gives the states considerable leeway in their treatment of these funds
and allows the states to set overall priorities without having to treat each high priority
project as a separate pot of money. Finally, the Act provides no funding in the
transportation section for the Appalachian highway program.
The Act also provides some highway funding in the emergency supplemental
portion of the omnibus act. These provisions provide an additional $100 million for
Alabama and Massachusetts that had been promised to these states during the TEA21
conference. Further highway funding from this section is provided for West Virginia
and Arkansas. Some of these funds are for the Appalachian highway program.
The total level enacted for FY1999 is well above what had been proposed by the
Clinton Administration, $23.5 billion, with a limitation on obligations of $21.5 billion
is identical to the FY1998 level.
As mentioned above, TEA-21, and its accompanying technical corrections,
establish an FY1999 limitation on obligations for all highway activities, including
safety, of approximately $25.5 billion. The limitation on obligations could not be
changed by the appropriations process and the Act provided specific unamenable
funding levels for all major highway programs. Appropriators’s had the ability to
make specific decisions about a number of smaller highway and highway safety
The Senate Committee on Appropriations bill set core spending at the TEA-21
limitation on obligation level. Total FHWA spending was just over $27.0 billion.
The committee did make a number of recommendations about spending for particular
activities. For example, FHWA operating expenses were increased over the FY1998
level, but not to same degree as proposed by the Administration. The committee also
made a number of recommendations about the ITS program aimed primarily at
Exempt program spending is used for the emergency relief and minimum allocation programs.6
increasing spending for actual ITS projects, as opposed to ITS promotion. Finally,
spending for the Appalachian highway system was set at $200.0 million. This is
$100.0 million less than the FY1998 level and below the spending level that could be
supported by TEA-21.
The House Committee on Appropriations also respected the TEA-21 fire walls
for core highway spending. Total funding for FHWA was set at $26.7 billion, which
is somewhat below the Senate level. Much of this difference can be accounted for by
the committee’s decision to zero out funding for the Appalachian highway system and
a new transportation infrastructure credit program that had received $80.0 million in
the Senate bill.
Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
The FY1999 Act provided a total of $5.39 billion for the FTA. This exceeded
FY1998 funding by $549.0 million, an increase of more than 11%. Almost all FTA
programs, with the significant exception of the operating assistance program, received
funding increases. Operating assistance funding was eliminated under formula grants
by TEA21. However, preventive maintenance previously eligible for funding from
operating assistance is now an eligible use under an expanded capital grants program.
Several transit programs have been controversial almost since their inception,
especially the operating assistance program. Recent Administrations, beginning with
the Reagan Administration, have proposed reductions and/or outright elimination of
these programs. Transit tends to be supported on a local basis, with the majority of
support coming from urban areas. Support for sometimes competing highway
programs is seen as having a much broader base, especially because of the absence of
transit systems in rural areas. Transit programs have continued largely, due to strong
congressional support from Members representing urban areas.
For FY1999, the Clinton Administration proposed a slight decrease in total FTA
funding over FY1998 levels, $4.78 billion. Essentially, the Administration’s proposal
would have consolidated most of the existing programs into a $3.6 billion formula
program. The Administration’s proposal would have consolidated the discretionary
bus and bus related program and fixed guideway modernization program into the
formula grants program All funding for this program would have come from the
transit account of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Only the fixed guideway
modernization formulas would have been retained as a separate component of the
consolidated program. The new starts programs, renamed the Major Capital
Investment Program, would have continued to allocate discretionary funds for fixed
guideway systems. New start funds would have been increased to $876.0 million over
the FY1998 level of $800.0 million. The Clinton Administration proposed one new
initiative for access to jobs and training, which was included in the recently-passed
The full Senate and House Appropriations Committees passed their versions of
the FY1999 Transportation Appropriations Act, respectively on July 14, and July 22,
for FY1999, $5.39 billion, an increase of $549 million over FY1998. These funding
levels were enacted into law on October 21, 1998, under the Omnibus Appropriations
Act of 1999 (H.R.4328, P.L.105-277). The Major capital investment program was
increased to $2.3 billion from the FY1998 level of $2.0 billion, an increase of 12.8%.
This included $902.8 million each for new starts and fixed guideway modernization
and $451.4 million bus/bus facility for FY1999. The formula grant program was set
at $2.85 billion, or $350 million over the FY1998 level of $2.5 billion, an increase of
14%. This included $2.5 billion for urbanize area grants, $50 million for clean fuel
vehicle grants, $67 million for elderly and disabled grants, $188 million for
nonurbanized area grants, $2 million for rural transportation grants, and $4.8 million
for the Alaska railroad for FY1999. Other funding included $75 million to the new
access to jobs/reverse commute program, $98 million for planning and research, $6
million for university centers, $54 million for the Federal Transit Administration, and
$50 million the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
P.L. 105-277 appropriates $9.6 billion for the FAA in FY 1999, up 5% from the
$9.1 billion provided in Fiscal 1998. The appropriation is about $85 million more
than the amount recommended by the House, but $300 million less than the Senate
mark and $150 million less than the Administration’s request. Division C — Other
Matters, provides for the reauthorization of the FAA for a period of 6 months.7
Airport Improvement Program (AIP) spending is limited to half the annual
authorization level, which could affect approved airport construction work. Separate
provisions in Division C give DOT the authority to intervene earlier in airline
consolidation proposals and halt DOT rulemaking on airline competition until at least
the middle of 1999.
Operations. FAA’s Operations account is funded at $5.563 billion, which is $25
million less than the Administration’s request. The conference assumed, however,
that $17 million of the Operations account will instead be provided in the Facilities
and Equipment account, making the net reduction in this account $8 million. This
account funds air traffic services, aviation regulation and safety certification, and
aviation security activities.
Facilities and Equipment. This account is funded at $2.0 billion (including
$100 million from the supplemental appropriations title), which is $130 million below
the budget request. Funds from this account provide for the modernization of air
traffic control and other facilities. The Act fully funds the Administration’s $168
million request for several programs collectively described by the FAA as the Free
Flight Phase I program. It also includes $100 million (in Title II of the Supplemental8
Division C— Other Matters, Title I — Other Matters, Sec. 110, Reauthorization of the7
Federal Aviation Administration.
Free Flight is an air traffic management concept that has the potential for greatly increasing8
users’ flexibility to plan and fly their preferred routes, saving airlines a potential $3 to $5
Appropriation) requested by the Administration for explosive detection devices.
However, the FAA is prohibited from obligating funds for explosive detection systems
until 30 days after the Administrator certifies to Congress that the major air carriers
agree to fund operation and maintenance of the systems in FY 1999 and substantially
increase their use of the machines.
Programs to address the Year 2000 computer problem are funded in the Act at
$25 million, $14 million below the Administration request. Additional funds,
however, are provided on a government wide basis as a result of Title III of the
Emergency Supplemental Appropriations section of the Omnibus bill. An unspecified
amount is likely to be available for FAA FY2K activities.
Research, Engineering, & Development. This account is funded at $150
million, which is $140 million less than the budget request. Most of the reduction is
the result of Congress denying $90 million in direct funding and approximately $45
million in indirect funding for the Flight 2000 program. The decision to not fund this9
program was based on a determination that the FAA was not yet ready to begin
“such an ambitious and expensive undertaking, had not decided on the sites for the
project, and had not achieved industry consensus.” Full funding is provided for10
aircraft safety technology, including $15 million for aging aircraft research. Also in
this account is $41.7 million for explosives and weapons detection research, which is
$2.2 million more than the request.
Grants-in-Aid for Airports. Airport grants are limited to $1.95 billion, which
is $250 million above the President’s request. Only $975 million of the limit is
available, however, until an FAA reauthorization bill is enacted in the next Congress.
The FAA is directed to give priority consideration to grant applications for projects
listed in the House and Senate bill reports and in the conference agreement. Airport
Improvement Program (AIP) contract authority for the first six months of FY 1999
(a total of $1.205 billion) is included in the Act.
Peanut-Free Buffer Zone. The Act prohibits the FAA from providing a peanut-
free buffer zone or any other peanut-restricted area, or from restricting the
distribution of peanuts, until 90 days after the agency has conducted a study that
shows that some passengers may suffer severe reactions from the mere smell of
peanuts (sec. 372).
billion annually in fuel and time.
Flight 2000 is a research and development program to test new technologies that will be used9
in the modernization of the National Airspace System. The program envisions equipping
approximately 2000 aircraft with new generation avionics for testing in all classes of airspace
and all phases of flight operations and surface movement.
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations. Department of Transportation and10
Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 1999. H.Rept. 105-648, July 24, 1998, p. 60.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was established as a
separate organizational entity in the Department of Transportation in March 1970.
The agency’s responsibilities include establishing minimum safety standards for
automotive equipment, serving as a clearing house and information source for drivers,
identifying and studying emerging safety problems, and encouraging state
governments to enact laws and implement programs to reduce drunk driving, and
encourage the use of safety devices.
For FY1999, the agency requested an appropriation of $406 million, up from
$333 million enacted for FY1998. Of the total, about $233 million (a 25% increase
and this year expressed as an “obligation limitation”) will be devoted to Highway
Traffic Safety Grants. Although the appropriation for the NHTSA represents a small
portion of the total DOT budget, successful implementation of its programs could be
instrumental in saving a significant percentage of the $150 billion lost to highway
deaths, injuries, and property damage annually.
One of the agency’s programs to encourage the use of seat belts has been
bolstered by the recent presidential seat belt initiative. Also, NHTSA has encouraged
the establishment of a uniform 0.08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level. Senate
and House reauthorization proposals took significantly different approaches for
convincing the states to enact 0.08 BAC levels. The Senate (S. 1173) recommended
a more stringent approach by reducing the basic allocations and apportionments (for
construction projects) to the states. The House, however, recommended a safety
grant program to induce states to adopt 0.08. The House prevailed in conference.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations, in its report on S. 2307,
acknowledged a number of NHTSA initiatives, including the (state) alcohol incentive
program mentioned above. Other programs included increased seat belt use, side
impact standards, and other occupant protection programs. Although air bags are not
specifically mentioned in the committee’s report, it does encourage continuing work
to develop an appropriate child crash dummy to better assess the effectiveness of
crash protection devices, which would include air bags.
In conference, Congress provided a total funding for NHTSA of $361.4 million,
an amount $28 million greater than the FY1998 enactment, but $44.5 million less
than that requested by the Administration for FY1999. The conference bill gives the
agency $159.4 million for Operations and Research. This represents an amount $12.4
million above its FY1998 amount, but less than half of its requested $25 million
increase for this program. It also permits additional obligations (from the Highway
Trust Fund) of $13.5 million ($200 million total) for Highway Safety Grants versus
the $33 million requested; and provides $2 million for the National Driver Register,
although no funding for this program was requested by the Administration.
Table 3. Total Budgetary Resources of Selected Agencies/Offices
(in millions of dollars)
FY1998FY1999S.Rept. 105-H.Rept. 105-ConferenceP.L. 105-277,
* Figures for enacted FY1998, and requested FY1999 were taken from S.Rept. 105-249, various pages.
**Surface Transportation Board estimated offsetting collections for FY1999.
: Numbers within this table may differ slightly from those in the text due to supplemental appropriations, rescissions, and other
For Additional Reading
CRS Issue Briefs
CRS Issue Brief 97030. Amtrak and the 105th Congress, by Stephen J Thompson.
CRS Issue Brief 97029. Supplemental Appropriations and Rescissions for FY1997,
coordinated by Stephen Daggett.
CRS Report 98-749 E, The Transportation Equity Act for the 21 Century (TEA21)st
and the Federal Budget, by John W. Fischer, September 4, 1998.
CRS Report 98-593E. Airport Improvement Program: Airport Finance Issues for
Congress, by Robert S. Kirk
CRS Report 96-67E. The Surface Transportation Board (STB): An Overview and
Selected Public Policy Issues, by Stephen J Thompson.
CRS Report 96-901. Automobile Air Bags: New Issues/New Research, by Duane A.
CRS Report 97-271. Federal Traffic Safety Programs and Grants: Issues and
Options for Reauthorization, by Paul F. Rothberg and Brad A. Trullinger.
CRS Report 97-516E. ISTEA Reauthorization: Highwway Related Legislativethst
Proposals in the 105 Congress, 1 Session, by John W. Fischer.
CRS Report 98-221E. ISTEA Reauthorization: Highwway Related Legislative
Proposals in the 105 Congress, 2 Session, by John W. Fischer. thnd
CRS Report 96-803. Reauthorization of the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance
Program: Options to Promote Flexibility and Performance, by Paul F.
Rothberg, et al.
CRS Report 98-63E. Transportation Trust Funds: Budgetary Treatment, by John W.
CRS Report 97-691. Intelligent Transportation Systems Program: Importance,
Status, and Options for Reauthorization, by Paul Rothberg, Frederick W.
Ducca, and Brad A. Trullinger.
CRS Report 97-951. Traffic Safety Provisions in Various Highway Reauthorization
Bills, by Paul F. Rothberg.
Selected World Wide Web Sites
Department of Transportation Budget Site
Department of Transportation, Chief Financial Officer
House Appropriations Committee
Interactive Budget Web Site
Maritime Administration (financial reports)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (budget & planning)
Office of Management and Budget
Senate Appropriations Committee