Commentary

The Slow Death of Federal Highway Funding

Here are a few quick bullets from the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Highlights released on Monday:

  • -10.3%: Six-year change in total federal surface transportation budget;
  • -15.9%: Six-year change in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) budget;
  • 58.9%: Share of federal surface transportation budget going to federal highway initiatives, excluding Livable Commuities initiatives in Fiscal Year 2012.
  • 53.6%: Share of federal surface transportation budget going to federal highway initiatives, excluding livable commuities (Smart Growth) initiatives in Fiscal Year 2017.
  • 35.9%: Share of six-year surface transportation budget going to to transit, passenger rail, and livability communities initiatives;
  • 38.9%: Share of six-year surface transportation budget going to to transit, passenger rail, and livability communities initiatives in FY 2017.

Of course, FY 2012 includes a lot of “one-time” spending that is focused on stimulating the economy. The surface transportation budget falls from $112.5 billion in FY 2012 to $76.5 billion in FY 2017. The budget never really recovers.

That makes the shift in transportation funding priorities all that much more stark. Transit, passenger rail, and livable communities initiatives get just 30.5% of the total funding in FY 2012 and increases to 38.9% in FY 2017.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.