The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget submitted to Congress by the Trump administration would put funding-starved public transportation in Ohio in even more dire straits.
“We’re barely hanging on. It’s just going to make the existing problems even worse,” said Kirt Conrad, president of the Ohio Public Transit Association and CEO of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority.
President Donald J. Trump wants to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion, which is 13 percent.
Much of the adverse effect on public transportation could come from cuts to grant programs that benefit public transit systems.
The New Starts program, which was authorized to fund $2.3 billion in new rail or bus-rapid transit lines or to expand existing lines through 2020, was used by Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s HealthLine on Euclid Avenue.
“It [budget cuts] really potentially cuts future transit expansions in the country in general. It’s not just Ohio; in the whole country, public transit is at risk,” Conrad said. “In Ohio, without the federal support, I do not see those expansions.”
Also slated to be cut is the TIGER grant proram, which has also been used to fund transit in Ohio.
TIGER grants have funded rehabilitation of RTA stations, including the Little Italy-University Circle station and the University-Cedar station.
Two TIGER grants awarded in 2016 funded bicycle infrastructure in Cleveland and Akron.
Ohio transportation officials say the state’s transit systems rely on federal funding because Ohio limits the use of gas tax revenue to road projects.
Further squeezing public transit systems is a coming loss of revenue from a Medicaid MCO sale tax, which had been used for transit funding.
Starting in 2019, public transit systems in Ohio will lose $34 annually from that revenue source.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has proposed increasing state funding for public transportation by $10 million to make up part of the slack being left by the loss of the Medicaid MCO sales tax.
“Access to public transit is just getting worse, not better, in Ohio,” Conrad said.
Although the impact of the proposed Trump budget on highway construction and maintenance funding has yet to come into clear focus, transportation officials say that the loss of TIGER grants will have an adverse effect by removing another source of federal funding.
A $125 million TIGER grant helped pay, for example, for the new eastbound span of the George V. Voinovich (Innerbelt Bridge).
The Trump budget would also shift responsibility for air traffic control from the Federal Aviation administration to an independent, non-governmental organization.