The White House released its proposed budget for 2023, and, as President Joe Biden said, it reflects his values. So, we combed through the budget for transit spending to see how the president plans to make good on his promises to tackle the climate crisis in the coming year.
This budget is also notable because it features the spending allocated from November’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This landmark law will help fund transit projects for the next five years, and here we can start to see the impact it will have on a year-to-year basis.
Below we detail the proposed spending for Rail, Roads, and Other Transit, and highlight how you might start seeing this cash impact your community.
$15 billion increase from 2021 enacted levels
$13.2 billion from BIL
$7.4 billion for Amtrak, $10.1 billion for grant programs
Rail fans can thank BIL for $17.9 billion in rail spending. There are noticeable increases for regional passenger rail (Amtrak) and grants for other rail projects (freight, local passenger rail, and more). Rail is an efficient way to move people and goods. It is also an excellent tool to help the United States reach its carbon reduction goals.
The most immediate impact of this will be felt in the Northeast. There are already multiple projects and funding aimed at modernizing interstate rail routes between Boston and Washington, D.C. If you live in the Northeast, you will start to see newer cars, increased route frequency, and updates to stations in 2023.
In our current transportation system, highways are often the veins and arteries of our economy. But they are also where 35,000 yearly deaths and our number one source for greenhouse gas pollution. The $68.9 billion going to the FHWA is nearly the same as the rest of the Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed budget combined.
Photo by Hari Panicker on Unsplash
It’s not all bad. There is long-overdue funding to repair and restore bridges, build out EV charging infrastructure, improve disaster resiliency, and plenty of climate change-conscious rhetoric.
Improvements to existing infrastructure can make it safer and cleaner. Unfortunately, there are endless examples of federal funds floating highway expansion projects that exacerbate traffic congestion, demolish and isolate communities and increase our consumption of fossil fuels. This year, PIRG plans to release its latest update to the Highway Boondoggle report that highlights the country’s most wasteful highways projects.
The impact of this spending can vary across states. You might live in a state that focuses on repairing existing infrastructure and building EV charging stations. In that case, you might experience less wear and tear, fewer tailpipe emissions, and fewer crashes. If you live in a state that prioritizes highway expansion, that will most likely lead to more cars on the road, and the problems they bring with them.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is looking at somewhere around $20 billion; the spending proposals are wide open. Almost $14 billion is for grants. This money could be used for electric buses, light rail, or new bus stations. This means your elected officials are going to have an impact on how and if this money makes it to your community.
There is $350 million to make public transportation more accessible. Transportation can be a major tool for someone lifting themselves out of poverty, and accessibility measures bring this tool to more people.
Starting to face climate change
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act took acknowledgment on both sides that we need to update our infrastructure to address the mounting threat of climate change. The president’s proposed budget starts to put that into action.
There is funding in the budget that will help us address climate change. But it’s up to state and local leaders to take action to realize the bill’s potential. Going forward, PIRG will be keeping a close eye on how the administration, towns, and cities spend this money to ensure we’re doing all we can to slow down and respond to climate change.
This blog was written by PIRG transportation advocate Sam Little.
Photo by Hari Panicker on Unsplash