Federal budget spells good news for Ann Arbor's Stadium bridges, bad news for high-speed rail
(This story has been updated with comment from City Administrator Roger Fraser.)
Historic spending cuts negotiated in the nation's capital will leave intact a federal grant program expected to help fund replacement of Ann Arbor's Stadium bridges, but President Barack Obama's plan for a national high-speed rail network has been dealt a heavy blow.
U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers has released a summary of the budget bill that will carry the federal government through the rest of fiscal year 2011.
For the U.S. Department of Transportation, the bill eliminates new funding for high-speed rail and rescinds $400 million in previous year funds, for a total reduction of $2.9 billion, according to the summary. The bill also reduces funding for transit by $991 million, but preserves $528 million in funding for the TIGER grant program.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Federal Rail Administration officials claim they lost what amounts to $1.4 billion in funds for high-speed rail, CNN reported today. That differs from other published reports, including Rogers' summary, that have put the figure higher.
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that officials said on Monday the deal reached in Washington would cut this year's high-speed rail budget from $2.5 to $1 billion, but on Tuesday officials eliminated the final $1 billion, essentially erasing all subsidies for local high-speed rail projects, including California's 520-mile line from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
CNN reported the federal cuts will not affect high-speed rail projects already under way across the United States, and projects that have been awarded grants will keep their funding, according to US-DOT officials. But concerns about future funding remain.
U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who has lobbied for the TIGER grants for Ann Arbor's Stadium bridges, applauded the decision to keep the program alive. TIGER is an acronym standing for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.
The TIGER grants are expected to provide $13.9 million of the $23 million needed for Ann Arbor's Stadium bridges replacement project slated to start later this year.
“I am ecstatic that the program will continue on as planned and I will continue to work with all parties to see that it is implemented and funded appropriately," Dingell said in a statement. "Last month, the Department of Transportation obligated the first phase funds in the amount of $800,000. The remaining funds will be obligated later this summer. This funding will save more than $33 million a year in traffic delays, vehicle operation and crash costs, and will also generate more than $53 million in real economic benefit and create an estimated 450 jobs.”
City Administrator Roger Fraser also welcomed the news.
"We're delighted about that," Fraser said. "In the absence of that, we would be cutting virtually all of our significant road improvements for the next three to four years in order to pay for the repair of the bridge, but we don't have to do that."
The high-speed rail cuts could affect future funding to improve rail service between Detroit and Chicago. The busiest Amtrak station between those two points is in Ann Arbor, and city officials have high hopes for more activity with a new train station proposed along Fuller Road.
Dingell announced last fall that Michigan would receive $150 million for high-speed rail improvements along the Dearborn-to-Kalamazoo portion of the tracks, but the state Legislature still hasn't taken action to secure those funds by putting up required matching money. Gov. Rick Snyder last week said his administration would be seeking additional funding, but he still hasn't fully made up his mind about high-speed rail.
The deal negotiated between the House, Senate and White House on a final continuing resolution will prevent a government shutdown and fund the entire federal government until Sept. 30, but will cut nearly $40 billion in federal spending.
"When this agreement is signed into law, Congress will have taken the unprecedented step of passing the largest non-defense spending cut in the history of our nation — tens of billions larger than any other non-defense reduction, and the biggest overall reduction since World War II," Rogers' summary reads, adding it has been the goal of the new Republican majority to keep tax dollars where they're needed most: in the hands of businesses and individuals.