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Transportation

Congress Set to Eye $446.8B

WASHINGTON — Congress is expected as early as this week to take up a $446.8 billion appropriations act for fiscal 2010 that would provide more high-speed rail funds than the Obama administration had requested, along with highway and other transportation infrastructure funds and bond-related community development block grants.

Several House and Senate members met in a conference committee late Tuesday night to put together the package, which still requires approval by the full House and Senate.

The conference committee decided to reject any funds for a national infrastructure bank. The White House had requested $5 billion of startup funds for the proposed bank, but the committee said it should be handled “through the regular authorizing process” instead of appropriating it funds at this point.

The massive appropriations measure would provide $2.5 billion for ­high-speed rail, which is $1.5 billion more than the White House requested in its budget proposal earlier this year. It also would provide states with $41.1 billion for highway system infrastructure ­projects, and $600 million of grants for multimodal infrastructure such as ­highway, bridge, transit, rail, or port projects.

In addition, the appropriations measure would provide $4.45 billion for CDBGs.

The package’s approval by the full House and Senate would allow lawmakers to mark off their to-do list six of the seven appropriations bills that still have not been approved for this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

The bill comes at the crossroads of several other major decisions and ­proposals.

Lawmakers would like to introduce a jobs bill that President Obama said should include transportation funding similar to that provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act this year. Obama said Tuesday that the bill could be paid for using unspent money authorized to support the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. ­Geithner told House and Senate leaders yesterday that TARP would be extended until next October — it was set to ­expire at the end of this year — to provide more assistance to community banks, homeowners, and small businesses. He also confirmed the president’s assertion Tuesday that the program would cost at least $200 billion less than expected.

Meanwhile, the House this week approved another three-month extension — through March — of the Federal Aviation Administration and the $4.50 passenger facilities charge that helps airports repay bonds.

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