The Senate last week approved a fiscal 2010 transportation and housing appropriations bill that included more than $1 billion each for rail projects and discretionary grants. Now the Senate and House, which passed its bill in July, must meet to resolve their differences over a national infrastructure bank, high-speed rail, and community development block grants.
The Senate appointed 22 members to join House members in a conference committee to craft a final bill to send to President Obama. Differences between the two bills include the House's provision allowing $2 billion to be transferred into any national infrastructure bank that is created, as well as the amount of funding for rail investments, discretionary grants, and CDBGs. The House approved its bill in July.
The Senate voted 73 to 25 to approve its measure Thursday. The bill would provide $75 billion for the Department of Transportation, including $1.2 billion for high-speed and intercity passenger rail. By contrast, the House bill would provide about $4 billion for high-speed rail projects, with a stipulation that the transportation secretary could transfer $2 billion of that into a national infrastructure bank.
The Senate bill also would provide $1.1 billion of discretionary grants for several types of infrastructure projects, prompted by the intense competition last week for $1.5 billion of discretionary grants authorized by the stimulus act.
State and local governments are seeking at least five times the amount available through the program. However, the Senate appropriations bill would require matching funds from states and local governments to receive the discretionary grants it would create.
For housing, the Senate measure contains $3.99 billion in formula funding for the CDBG program. The grants are used in conjunction with bonds and are provided to low- and middle-income communities for economic development projects. The amount provided by the Senate is less than the $4.16 billion that the House would like. However, both bills would provide more funding to the program than it currently receives: $3.64 billion.
Additionally, the Senate bill would provide $150 million for a sustainable communities initiative involving the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency. It would provide grants for housing and transportation integrated planning at the regional and local levels.