Through clenched teeth, President Trump today signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government through the end of the 2018 fiscal year. With smiling faces, transport interests hailed the president's pen hitting the paper.
Trump labeled the bill "ridiculous" as he signed it into law. For those seeking more money to fund the transport ecosystem, the results were anything but ridiculous. The popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, received $1.5 billion in funding, three times what it got in fiscal 2017. The program, launched in 2009 in the wake of the Great Recession, has been a key feedstock for freight projects because it focuses on needs that are multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional, both characteristics of freight projects. Freight has received 44 percent of TIGER money since its inception. The number of applications that have a freight component have typically far exceeded the available funds.
The law adds $1 billion to $45 billion in funding from the Highway Trust Fund for the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) surface transportation program. It includes $6.83 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an increase of $789 million from fiscal 2017. Of that, $3.63 billion will go to the Corps' operations and maintenance program, which pays for maintenance dredging in America's deep-draft harbors and channels. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which contributes to the program through a tax paid by importers on the declared value of merchandise, will get $1.4 billion in FY 2018, up $100 million from FY 2017 levels.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will receive $14 million, a nearly 15-percent increase over fiscal 2017. Of that, $7.6 million will be used to hire 328 CBP officers. In the maritime environment alone, a minimum of 500 CBP officers are needed annually, according to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the leading port trade group.
The bill also more than doubles Maritime Administration funding levels to $980 million. The Marine Highways program designed to move long-haul freight off the highways and onto coastal, inland, and intracoastal waterways was appropriated $7 million, up $2 million from last year's levels.