FRCA Advocates for STB Appropriated Funding

With the December 2015 passage of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-110), FRCA’s legislative focus in 2016 is on working to obtain the maximum possible funding for the STB to modernize its information technology systems; improve data collection; and provide sufficient staff to help ensure the Board can efficiently meet its current, mandated responsibilities, and enhanced duties pursuant to PL 114-110.

For the past two decades, the STB’s budget has remained essentially flat

The new reauthorization law sought to address this by authorizing an increase in the current FY 2016 to $33million.  The subsequent appropriated funding of $32.375 million for the STB approved by the U.S. Congress in the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriation Act (P.L.114-13) was a crucial step in beginning the implementation of the new STB Reauthorization Act.

U.S. Senate

Thanks to outreach and education efforts by FRCA, its individual members and others within the rail shipper community, the U.S. Senate approved its version of FY 2017 appropriation measure for the U.S. Department of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD), and related Agencies (H.R. 2577) on May 19th by a 89-9 vote.  This measure includes $37 million for the STB of which $2.046 million is directed to IT system upgrades and enhancements.  This is above both the current FY ’16 enacted level and the amount authorized in the STB Reauthorization Act of $35 million.  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 2844 (S. Rpt. 114-243) on April 21st by a 30-0 vote.

“In this continued budget environment any increase is positive news – especially an increase above the authorized amount,” said FRCA Executive Director, Ann Warner.

Not known if the Presidential veto threat still remains following the numerous THUD amendments that were agreed to on the Senate floor as H.R. 2577.  Previously, the Obama Administration issued a veto threat on May 16th should the U.S. Congress adopt the THUD portion of the bill in its current form (the version reported out of the Senate Appropriation Committee).  Click here for the Statement of Administration Policy.

[Please note:  On the Senate floor, S. 2844 was combined with the FY 2017 Military Construction (MILCON) appropriations bill, S. 2806 (S. Rpt. 114-237), which is being used as a vehicle to provide emergency funding for the Zika virus. In another procedural move, this combined FY 2017 THUD and MILCON appropriation measure was then attached as an amendment to H.R. 2577 – last year’s House-passed FY 2016 THUD appropriations bill.  This was done because technically, the House is to move on annual appropriation bills first and then send its version to the Senate for consideration.  But in order to get this combined measure thru the Senate, thus, clearing Senate floor time for remaining FY 2017 appropriation bills and other legislative business, Senate leaders opted for this procedural step. 

In related, but separate activity, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a 239-17 vote the conference report or final version, H.R. 2577 (H. Rpt. 114-640), providing $82.5 billion in discretionary funding for the FY 2017 MILCON and $1.1 billion for the Zika virus.  At the time of this writing, Senate floor consideration was underway on the conference report.]

U.S. House of Representatives

On May 24th, the House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote its FY 2017 appropriations bill funding the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development and related agencies (THUD), H.R. 5395 (H. Rpt. 114-640).

As approved by the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee on May 18th, it includes $37 million for the STB.  The accompanying report language also directs $2.046 million to be used for IT upgrades (as the Senate-passed bill does), and for contracting with U.S. Department of Transportation for administrative support functions, and for six months of salary and expenses for two new Board Members. 

In a May 3 letter sent to the Members serving on the, FRCA requested that the STB be provided with adequate annual appropriated funds.  Of particular importance is adequate funding of enhancements to the STB’s outdated information technology (IT) system.  Freight rail shippers heavily rely on industry data provided through the STB to help:  1) make vital daily and longer term operational decisions; 2) forecast industry emerging trends; and, 3) monitor a railroad’s level of service and performance. 

Although the STB has made positive strides in improving its data collection and distribution processes, an additional $2 million in funding is needed to make longstanding IT upgrades allowing the STB to provide transparency, uniformity, and timeliness when reporting and displaying data while providing a streamlined process for all stakeholders when accessing data.

FRCA’s letter emphasized that the STB needs necessary increased appropriated funding to provide necessary and effective oversight of our nation’s freight railroads.  Freight rail is a vital component of our nation’s economy to help our farmers produce, deliver grain and other agricultural products to market, heat and supply power to our homes and businesses, ensure our drinking water is safe, and enhance our global competiveness.  Click here for the FRCA letter. 


It appears more than likely that House Floor consideration of H.R. 5394 might not happen until September.  At the time of this writing, the House is in recess for the July 4th Holiday and not scheduled to return until July 5th.   Both the House and Senate are expected to adjourn in mid-July for the national party conventions and the August recess; returning September 6th. 

The new FY 2017 begins October 1st leaving very little time for the House pass H.R. 5395, iron out the differences (including the STB report language) between the Senate-passed H.R. 2577, and pass a final measure by the end of September.  There is a strong possibility that a Continuing Resolution will happen meaning that the Federal government will continue to operate but do so at current FY 2016 funding levels.  FRCA will continue to monitor the appropriations process moving forward.

Warner added that “we greatly appreciate the House and Senate appropriators’ attention and commitment in doing everything possible to help meet STB’s funding needs.  FRCA will continue to monitor additional mandates that may face the STB moving forward, and be prepared to help advocate for more appropriated funding, as necessary.”  Despite this significant and well documented needed increase, the $37 million figure in both the Senate and House versions is below STB’s original $40.105 million FY ’17 budget request to the Office of Management and Budget. 

FY 2017 STB Appropriations Comparison Chart

FY ’15 Enacted

FY ’16

FY ’17
STB Budget Recommendation

FY ’17
P.L. 114-110

H.R. 2577
(Combined with MILCON)
Senate Approved
89-9 Vote
May 19th

S. 2844
S. Rpt. 114-243
Senate Appropriations Committee Approved
30-0 Vote
 April 21st

H.R. 5394
House Floor

H.R. 5394
H. Rpt. 114-640 Appropriations Committee
Approved Voice Vote
May 24th







$2.046-IT Upgrades

$2.046-IT Upgrades, USDOT Contracting Admin Services, 6 Months’ Salary & Expenses for Two New Board Members















Amounts in millions.

Additional information can be found at and