This is one of a series wrapping up congressional action on the fiscal 1985 appropriations for major domestic agencies.
The Transportation Department received virtually all that President Reagan's budget asked. The budget proposed $28.5 billion; $28.3 billion was approved. For DOT's many agencies -- from the Coast Guard to the Federal Railroad Administration -- there were few shortfalls.
However, the administration got one thing it definitely did not want: specific instructions on how to spend $422.5 million that is designated for "new transit starts," that is, new rail or subway systems.
It is supposed to be a discretionary fund, where the Urban Mass Transportation Administration selects projects based on established criteria. Instead, it has become a plaything of the House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, which earmarked all $422.5 million and was supported by the Senate, as follows:
Portland, Ore., light rail, $19 million; Seattle rail/bus tunnel, $20 million; Detroit light rail, $5 million; Miami heavy rail and downtown people mover, $49 million; Santa Clara County (San Jose, Calif.) light rail, $64.8 million; Atlanta heavy rail, $95 million; Los Angeles heavy rail, $117.2 million; Houston busway, $35 million; Jacksonville light rail, $1.8 million; St. Louis light rail, $10 million; Buffalo light rail, $2.7 million, and San Diego light rail, $3 million.
That's just one year's funding for projects that will cost four times that if they are completed, and there is no guarantee of unlimited federal funding in future years. The conferees noted as much, then said, "Demand for other projects undergoing study could be more than 10 times greater." That is precisely the reason UMTA wants to use criteria to determine how best to spend a limited amount of money.
Congress approved $2.5 billion for the Coast Guard, $5.4 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration, $14.7 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $259 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $802 million for the railroad administration, and $433 million for the Maritime Administration.