President Barack Obama on Monday released his budget for the next fiscal year, including his vision for transportation spending. Of course, this is only the start of the budget story because Congress also has a pretty big say on what dollars do — and do not — go out the door.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has a run-down of the transportation spending on his blog. Perhaps the most notable part of the Obama Administration’s budget at this point is that it envisions putting aside $30 billion for a National Infrastructure Bank to help finance major projects, including those of “regional significance.”
In other words, if the Bank does come into existence, there could be many to help Los Angeles County. That’s a good thing.
The Obama Administration also says that it plans to greatly increase the amount of dollars in the next federal transportation spending bill, which Congress may begin debating later this year. That, too, could help local transit agencies such as Metro.
On a project level, the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector projects have made the list as federal New Starts projects; New Starts is the Federal Transit Administration program that helps local areas fund large transit projects. This is not a surprise as Metro and the FTA have been negotiating a funding agreement for both projects. It is also not a surprise — although it would have been nice — that neither project gets any New Starts money in the 2012 budget, a result of both projects still being in the environmental study phase.
The FTA in December also gave both the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector permission to enter the preliminary engineering phase for both projects. That is still taken as a sign that the FTA is likely to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on both projects.