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South West Transit Association

The Return of Earmarks: Background for Transit Providers

Prepared for SWTA by Katie Kachel – Partner, Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell LLC

The key program for transit agencies where the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee allows earmarks is the Surface Transportation Block Grant program (STBG). SWTA members may have utilized STBG grants previously through their state Department of Transportation or Metropolitan Planning Organization. Under regular distribution (during the past 15-year-earmark-ban), they would flow as FHWA (highway) formula dollars to states, then flexed to transit.

According to the statutory criteria of STBG, out of 14-or so uses, one is for “transit capital projects eligible for assistance under chapter 53 of title 49.” This statutory reference encompasses the entire FTA suite of programs, but with the caveat of capital projects only.

Federal share under STBG is 90/10 for projects on the Interstate highway system and 80/20 for “other projects.” In some cases, the federal share may be increased – such as for safety projects, including “priority control systems for…transit vehicles at signalized intersections.”

In general, STBG projects may not be on local roads or rural minor collectors. There are a number of exceptions to this requirement, including bridge and tunnel projects; safety projects; fringe and corridor parking facilities/programs; recreational trails, pedestrian and bicycle projects, and safe routes to school projects; boulevard/roadway projects largely in the right-of-way of divided highways; inspection/evaluation of bridges, tunnels, and other highway assets; port terminal modifications; and projects within the pre-FAST Act title 23 definition of “transportation alternatives.” [23 U.S.C. 133(c)]

Links to more info about House Appropiations:

All subcommittees:


Each office is different, but deadlines range from March 29 to April 7 to submit approps earmark requests.

Regarding surface transportation authorization/infrastructure stimulus earmarks, this is the only guidance out just yet:


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