USDOT Spent Record $114 Billion in FY 2022
The final Monthly Treasury Statement for fiscal year 2022 revealed that the U.S. Department of Transportation spent a net $113.7 billion in fiscal year 2022, an all-time high.
But the aggregated nature of the reporting in the MTS (most accounts within a modal administration lumped together into one line) makes it difficult to see just how much of that spending is for programs on the rise (those boosted by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) versus those on the wane (the temporary COVID aid programs).
By the end of next month, we should have the Combined Statement online that shows every budget account, to the penny, and the annual additions to, and subtractions from, the balances on each account. But even then, it will be difficult, since the COVID aid for mass transit and the supplementary IIJA funding for mass transit capital both have the same account name, “Transit Infrastructure Grants,” so the amounts will be combined for most public reporting.
The reporting in the MTS was outlays – the cash going out the door to liquidate, or pay off, an obligation like a work week completed, a purchase delivered, or a contract fulfilled. Since those outlays can lag the spending decisions made by Congress and the Administration by weeks, months, or years, it is pretty clear that most of the high-water-mark spending for 2023 was COVID, not IIJA.
Here are the outlay totals for every USDOT mode for the last five fiscal years, in millions of dollars.
|FY 2018||FY 2019||FY 2020||FY 2021||FY 2022|
The Federal Transit Administration spent $34.1 billion in 2022, almost three times its annual budget five years ago, and that is largely COVID-based. The interesting thing is that the FY 2022 COVID spending was so much higher than the FY 2020 or 2021 COVID spending, since it was 2020 and 2021 that had the peak ridership drop.
The fact that transit agencies banked so much of their COVID aid was specifically called out by the Treasury Secretary and the OMB Director in their annual joint statement on the budget results: “Outlays for the Department of Transportation were $113.7 billion, $9.2 billion lower than the MSR estimate. More than half of this difference was due to slower-than-expected spending of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) COVID supplemental funding for a variety of reasons, including supply chain disruptions and labor force shortages that impacted local transit agencies’ ability to spend Federal funds. ”
And Federal Railroad Administration spending dropped off substantially as well. FRA funding includes the Amtrak budget, and since Amtrak is, technically, not part of the federal government, its grants tend to “spend out” for budget purposes the minute they get their annual grants approved. (The money sits on Amtrak’s books for years until actually spent by Amtrak. It doesn’t sit on Uncle Sam’s books waiting for Amtrak to spend it.)
But this has also changed, per the Treasury-OMB statement: “The other major reason for the difference was that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Amtrak agreed to a new payment method for Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act supplemental funds, under which FRA will outlay quarterly based on Amtrak’s estimated funding needs for the upcoming period.”
It was at the Federal Highway Administration where we got the most substantive proof that the increased IIJA funding is already hitting the streets and doing some good. At FHWA, the COVID and and some of the supplementary IIJA money is from the general fund, but most of FHWA’s funding increase under the IIJA was channeled through the Highway Trust Fund and the regular old Federal-Aid Highways Account. And that account had its biggest August ever and its second-largest September ever.
|FHWA OUTLAYS BY MONTH (MILLION DOLLARS)|