Congress Reaches Agreement on Recovery Package

Friday, February 13, 2009

House and Senate have reached agreement on a $790 billion economic stimulus package, H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The conference report includes the following spending levels for ASCE priority issues:


  • Roads and Bridges: provides $27.5 billion for modernizing roads and bridges, requires states to obligate at least half of the highway/bridge funding within 120 days;
  • Public Transit and Rail: provides $8.4 billion for investments in transit systems, $8 billion for investment in high-speed rail, and $1.3 billion for Amtrak capital needs. Includes funds for new construction of commuter and light rail, modernizing existing transit systems, and purchasing buses and equipment needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities. The $8 billion for high-speed rail was not included in either the House or Senate-passed versions; and
  • Aviation: $1.3 billion to improve the nation's aviation infrastructure. Includes $1.1 billion for the Airport Improvement Program; and
  • General Transportation: $1.5 billion for discretionary grants for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure including roads, bridges, tunnels, rail and ports.
  • Failure to maintain effort: The Department of Transportation portion of the legislation includes a maintenance of effort clause for the states to ensure that states do not substitute economic recovery funds for current state transportation funds.


  • Small watershed dams rehabilitation: $50 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service; and
  • Economic Development Administration: $150 million.
  • Army Corps of Engineers: $4.6 billion to improve the nation's water resources infrastructure;
  • Drinking Water and Wastewater: $4 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund and $2 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund to finance water infrastructure improvements;
  • Superfund and Brownfields: $900 million for EPA's nationwide environmental cleanup programs;
  • Waste: $1.28 billion to support $3.8 billion in loans and grants for needed water and waste disposal facilities in rural areas;
  • Bureau of Reclamation: $1 billion to provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural areas and to ensure adequate water supply to western localities impacted by drought; and
  • International Boundary Water Commission: $220 million for the water quantity program to met immediate repair and rehabilitation requirements.


  • National Science Foundation: provides $3 billion for basic research in fundamental science and engineering;
  • Department of Energy's Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): provides $400 million to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency in collaboration with industry; and
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): provides $580 million including the Technology Innovation Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.


  • Electricity delivery and energy reliability: $4.5 billion to modernize the electric grid to include demand-responsive equipment and enhance security and reliability of energy infrastructure; and
  • General Services Administration: $4.5 billion to convert GSA facilities to High Performance Green Buildings.


  • $40.6 billion within the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund: Direct payment to local school districts which can be used for school modernization, preventing cutbacks, preventing layoffs, or other purposes.


  • Bureau of Land Management: $180 million for constructing, reconstruction, decommissioning and repair of roads, bridges, trails, property and facilities;
  • Fish & Wildlife Service: $115 million for construction of roads, bridges, trails, property and facilities;
  • National Park Service: $735 million for deferred maintenance and repair and restoration of roads and construction of facilities;
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs: $450 million for repair and restoration of roads and replacement of school construction; and
  • Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: $650 million for priority road, bridge and trail maintenance, including related watershed restoration and ecosystem enhancement projects.


  • 3% Witholding: The legislation contains a 1-year delay in the implementation of the 3% withholding on contracts for government services.
  • Qualified School Construction Bonds: The bill creates a new category of tax credit bonds for the construction, rehabilitation, or repair of public school facilities or for the acquisition of land on which a public school facility will be constructed.
  • Tax Credit Bond Option for State and Local Governments ("Build America Bonds"): For 2009 and 2010, the bill would provide State and local governments with the option of issuing a tax credit bond instead of a tax-exempt governmental obligation bond. Because the market for tax credits is currently small given current economic conditions, the bill would allow the State or local government to elect to receive a direct payment from the Federal government equal to the subsidy that would have otherwise been delivered through the Federal tax credit for bonds.


As recommended by ASCE's Principles for Infrastructure Stimulus Investment, the recovery package contains multiple provisions for oversight to ensure the money is being spent in its intended purpose.

  • Funds will be distributed whenever possible through existing formulas and programs;
  • Expedited, but effective obligation of funds so that dollars are invested in the economy as quickly as possible.
  • The Government Accountability Office and the Inspectors General are provided additional funding for auditing and investigating recovery spending.
  • A new Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board will coordinate and conduct oversight of recovery spending and provide early warning of problems.
  • A special website will provide transparency by posting information about recovery spending, including grants, contracts, and all oversight activities.
  • State and local whistleblowers who report fraud and abuse are protected.
  • There are no earmarks in this bill.


Thanks to the hundreds of Key Contacts who have already contacted their Representatives and Senators in support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act!