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April 6, 2018 1:45 AM, EDT

Chao to Defend Fiscal 2019 Budget Request at House Hearing April 12

Elaine Chao Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg

The country’s top transportation officer is scheduled to defend President Donald Trump’s request to reduce the U.S. Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget by 19% when she testifies before a House panel April 12.

The fiscal 2019 budget request unveiled in February calls for reducing spending for passenger rail systems and transit programs, and eliminating funding for infrastructure grants.

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The timing of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s appearance before the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee will take place shortly after the Republican-led Congress dismissed several of the White House’s transportation proposals.

For instance, in the recently enacted fiscal 2018 funding law, Congress agreed to fund the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery infrastructure grants program, and increase funding for the Federal Transit Administration, as well as Amtrak.

Also at the hearing, lawmakers from the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state region are likely to press Chao on the prospects of funding a massive project meant to improve rail connectivity in Manhattan. DOT, in a statement, emphasized the fiscal 2018 bill had not prioritized the project known as Gateway.

“Because of the president’s leadership, Congress is now considering a spending bill that provides billions in needed funding for infrastructure projects across the country and also removes preferential treatment for the New York and New Jersey Gateway projects, including complete removal of all language that earmarked or advantaged these local transit projects in earlier versions considered by Congress,” DOT stated March 22. Trump signed the fiscal 2018 legislation the following day.