The Conference Report on H.R.2673, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2004, has now been released, providing details on appropriations for the Department of Transportation and the National Scenic Byways Program. HR 2673 is expected to be adopted without amendments either early next week or in January 2004.
Despite our collective efforts, nearly half of the total byways program money ($27.5 million) has been earmarked for specific state programs and projects ($13,250,000). The House of Representatives had originally earmarked all of the byways money, while the Senate had no earmarks. The conferees compromised, reducing the House earmarks by half. More importantly, this means is there has been earmarking of byways funds for three straight years and there is actually less money available for grants this year than in any of the first three years under TEA 21. That is definitely NOT the right direction for this program. Attached is a list of the earmarked projects included in H.R.2673.