Posts Tagged ‘Federal transportation funding’

GOP Introduces $400B Transportation Reauthorization Bill

May 21, 2021

House Republicans introduced a $400 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill this week that would provide funding for roads, bridges and core infrastructure.

Named Surface Transportation Advanced Through Reform, Technology & Efficient Review, the legislation authorizes funding over five years for the federal highway, transit and motor carrier and highway safety programs.

“Our bill focuses on the core infrastructure that helps move people and goods through our communities every single day, cuts red tape that holds up project construction, and gets resources into the hands of our states and locals with as few strings attached as possible,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri), the ranking minority member of the committee.

A news release said the legislation proposes streamlined project delivery and investment in small and rural communities.

The bill’s fate is unclear given that Democrats control the House and will have their own proposals.

FTA Changes Matching Fund Rule

February 19, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration has made a significant rule change for projects seeking to receive Capital Investment Grant funding.

The agency no longer will prohibit grant recipients from using CIG grants as part of their local funding match when applying for grants.

That prohibition, which had been imposed during the Trump administration, has been criticized for establishing barriers to certain public transit projects.

In a letter sent this past week the FTA said it will now “rely on the CIG statutory framework”to ensure that projects have met federal transportation law, the Major Capital Investment Projects Final rule, and the CIG Final Interim Policy Guidance published in June 2016.

Some congressional Democrats had accused the Trump administration of using funding policies to delay or thwart such Northeast Corridor rail infrastructure projects as replacing the century old Portal Bridge and constructing a new tunnel linking New York City and New Jersey under the Hudson River, also known as the Gateway project.

Under the new FTA policy, states will be allowed to use federal loans to cover their share of a project’s costs, something New York and New Jersey had planned to do with their federal loans in order to meet their 50 percent match of funding for the Gateway project.

Former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao had in May 2018 prohibited states from using federal loans as part of their project match funding.

Although Congress a year later prohibited USDOT from doing that, the agency continued to maintain its policy of banning use of loans for state matching funds.

Amtrak, Transit Did Well in Budget Bill

December 23, 2020

Public Transit and Amtrak did reasonably well in the legislation approved by Congress this week to fund the federal government through the end of the 2021 fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The $1.4 billion omnibus budget bill include $15.5 billion for public transportation and passenger rail, a $10 million increase from the enacted levels of FY 2020.

The funding breaks down to $2.8 billion for passenger rail and $13 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.

Amtrak’s FY2021 funding included $700 million for operating and capital projects in the Northeast Corridor.

Of that $75 million is earmarked for bringing Amtrak-served facilities and stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The national network received $1.3 billion for long-distance and state-supported trains, including $50 million for the latter.

Among the policy riders attached to the budget bill was one stating it is the sense of Congress that long-distance passenger rail routes provide much-needed transportation access, particularly in rural areas.

The long-distance passenger rail routes and services should be sustained to ensure connectivity throughout the national network.

Another rider sets aside $100 million to support the acquisition of new single-level passenger equipment in proportion to the use of this equipment for Amtrak’s NEC, state-supported, and long-distance services.

The bill “reminds” Amtrak that Congress removed the prohibition on the use of Federal funds to cover any operating loss associated with providing food and beverage service on Amtrak routes.

That action was part of a one-year extension of federal surface transportation authorization legislation approved last September.

Amtrak also was directed to “continually review and evaluate the locations and trains that may be eligible for private car moves, update the guidelines for private cars on Amtrak if additional locations or trains meet Amtrak’s criteria, and notify private car owners of these changes.”

In other budget provisions, the Consolidated Rail Improvement and Safety Improvements program received $375 million for rail projects of which at least $75 million is to be used for projects that support the development of new intercity passenger rail routes including alignments for existing routes.

Not less than $25 million is to be used for capital projects and engineering solutions targeting trespassing.

The Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair program received $200 million to repair, replace, or rehabilitate qualified railroad assets to reduce the state of good repair backlog and improve intercity passenger rail performance.

The Restoration and Enhancement Grants program received $4.7 million for initiating, restoring, or enhancing intercity passenger rail transportation.

Of the $13 billion appropriated for the Federal Transit Administration, $2 billion is to be used for for Capital Investment Grants and $516 million for Transit Infrastructure Grants.

The bill reestablishes an 80/20 cost share split between the federal government and state government for the CIG program.

More Details About Bill That Extends FAST Act, Enacts Stopgap Federal Funding for FY2021

September 25, 2020

As reported earlier, the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act will extend the Fixing America’s Transportation Act for another year and keep federal funding flowing through Dec. 11.

The bill, which was approved by a large margin in the House and is expected to receive Senate approval and be signed by President Trump, had a few items of substance for intercity rail passenger service but excluded much of what many rail passenger advocates wanted.

By extending the surface transportation authorization for a year, it ensured that Amtrak and public transit, not to mention highway construction funding, would continue.

Amtrak is expected to receive through December a prorated share of what it was appropriated in fiscal year 2020.

That means $138 million for the Northeast Corridor and $256.4 million for the national network.

The bill also eliminates a requirement that Amtrak food and beverage service make a profit.

The so-called “Mica Provision” was a legacy of former House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John Mica who often railed against the cost of Amtrak’s food and beverage service.

However, Amtrak’s plans to reduce the operation of most long-distance trains to three times a week are not expected to be halted by the legislation.

The Rail Passengers Association wrote on its website that passenger rail largely was shut out by the bill, which it described as protecting the status quo.

The legislation also transfers $3.2 billion in general funds to the Mass Transit Account, which ensure the Federal Transit Agency will be able to process grants to transit agencies.

It also halted a $6 billion across-the-board cut of transit formula funds by eliminating the Rostenkowski Test in FY2021.

But RPA noted that extending the existing FAST Act for a year means there will not be a dedicated passenger rail trust fund and that authorizations for Amtrak funding for FY2021 remain at FY2020 levels.

RPA noted that without higher authorizations it would be unlikely that Amtrak would receive the $5 billion in funding for FY2021 that it sought.

That is the amount the passenger carrier said it needed to continue operating most long-distance trains on daily schedules.

Amtrak’s original funding request for FY2021 had been just over $2 billion.

In its post, RPA said the legislation failed to resolve any of the questions raised by Amtrak’s plan for tri-weekly service and made no changes to the service return metrics that Amtrak has established for a return to daily service next year.

The legislation also transfers $10.4 billion in general funds to the Highway Trust Fund and transfers $14 billion in general funds to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

Amtrak’s FY2021 funding will be hammered out later this year, probably in the lame duck session of Congress after the November elections.

Congress Moves to Keep Federal Funding Flowing in FY2021, Extend Transportation Authoritzation

September 23, 2020

Congress took the first step on Tuesday toward approving a continuing resolution to keep federal funding moving past the end of federal fiscal year 2020, which concludes Sept. 30.

The House of Representatives approve a continuing resolution on a 359-57 vote.

Included in the measure was a one-year extension of the current surface transportation law, which also expires on Sept. 30.

The extension will assure continue federal funding of highway construction projects as well as public transit and Amtrak.

However, the action by Congress this week also likely means that for now there will be no additional money for Amtrak and the carrier’s plans to reduce the frequency of operation of most long-distance trains to less than daily service will be implemented in October as planned.

Rail passenger advocates had fought to more than double Amtrak funding for FY2021 in order to preserve daily service on most of those routes.

The advocates had been urging Congress to approve additional emergency aid for Amtrak and public transit in another COVID-19 pandemic aid bill.

But political differences have sunk additional pandemic assistance for now, including more aid for the airline industry.

The continuing resolution approved by the House now moves to the Senate where approval is expected.

The resolution also includes provisions to bolster the Highway Trust Fund, including a transfer of $13.6 billion from the general fund.

That includes $10.4 billion to the trust fund’s highway account and $3.2 billion for its transit account.

The House bill also includes a $14 billion transfer to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund from the general fund.

Paul Skoutelas, American Public Transportation Association chief executive officer, said the House action would provide at least $12.6 billion for transit in FY2021,

The continuing resolution will continue federal funding through Dec. 11, meaning that action on FY2021 spending is being deferred into the lame duck session of Congress after the Nov. 3 elections.

It is possible that additional Amtrak and transit funding might be taken up then.

House Passes Transportation Funding in Budget Bill

August 1, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a federal fiscal year budget package that includes $10 billion in funding for Amtrak and $24 billion for public transit.

The legislation includes language that prohibits Amtrak from further furloughs of its work force, directs the intercity rail passenger carrier to maintain daily frequency of service on routes that have it now, and includes a mandate that passengers and employees wear masks on trains, planes, and large transit systems.

The budget bill was approved on a vote of 217 to 197 and now goes to the Senate, which has yet to introduce draft appropriations bills for the next fiscal year which begins on Oct. 1.

The Senate is still trying to approve a COVID-19 pandemic relief package that includes $10 billion in emergency aid for airports but no emergency funding for Amtrak or public transportation.

If the Senate fails to approve an FY2021 budget bill Congress may keep the federal government operating by passing one or more continuing resolutions.

It is unclear at this point what that would mean for Amtrak’s plans to reduce the operation of most long distance passengers trains to tri-weekly on Oct. 1.

House Passes Surface Transportation Bill

July 3, 2020

The U.S. House this week passed a five year reauthorization of surface transportation programs.

H.R. 2, which was named the Moving Forward Act, authorizes spending of $1.5 trillion on various transportation-related programs, including Amtrak.

The legislation approves $500 billion to reauthorize surface transportation programs and funding for infrastructure projects.

That includes $105 billion for public transportation and $60 billion for commuter rail, Amtrak and other high-performance rail service.

The bill has received mixed reviews from railroad trade associations because of various mandates that railroads generally oppose.

H.R. 2 faces considerable opposition in the Senate, which is expected to adopt its own surface transportation reauthorization bill with differences to be worked out in a conference committee.

The current surface transportation law, known as the FAST Act, will expire on Sept. 30.

Aside from specific transportation programs, H.R. 2 also authorizes $130 billion for schools, $100 billion for rural broadband and $100 billion for affordable housing.

Bill Would Boost Transportation Funding

June 4, 2020

Amtrak funding would triple under a five-year transportation plan released by some members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The plan, known as the “INVEST in America Act,” would authorize almost $500 billion for infrastructure, including $60 billion for rail projects.

Of the $494 billion in funding authorized by the legislation, $319 billion or 65 percent would go toward highway-related projects.

The bill contains $105 billion for transit, $29 billion for Amtrak, and a new $19 billion grant program devoted entirely to passenger rail projects.

Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program would be $7 billion for passenger and freight projects, and a new $2.5 billion grant program for grade-crossing improvements.

The bill is being pushed by Democratic members of the committee and drew immediate criticism from three Republican members.

The GOP members, who were not involved in drafting the bill, said as proposed the bill would not provide enough flexibility for states and would favor urban areas over rural regions.

Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation defended the bill by describing it as transformational legislation that would move the nation into a new era of planning, building and improving U.S. infrastructure.

The proposed legislation would prohibit Amtrak from imposing mandatory arbitration in ticket policies, mandate an improved methodology and increase transparency in the process Amtrak uses to determine how much states pay for corridor services.

Amtrak would also be directed to offer reduced fares for certain groups, including veterans and current members of the military and their families, and be required to provide access to hot meals for all passengers traveling overnight and not just those in sleeper class.

The outsourcing of onboard food and beverage service would be banned and Amtrak would have to create a working group to issue a report within a year on how to improve food and beverage service.

As for other railroads, the bill would require use of two-person crews on freight trains with some exemptions for short lines.

The U.S. Department of Transportation would be directed to develop a national strategy to deal with the delays at grade crossings, saying crossings should not be blocked for more than 10 minutes at a time.

The DOT special permits allowing transport of liquefied natural gas by tank car would be rescinded and DOT would be prohibited from issuing any further permits until the agency has further studied the safety of the matter.

The Government Accountability would be directed to conduct a study on the effect of precision scheduled railroading on shippers as well as s study on the safety issues of trains longer than 7,500 feet.

FY2020 Budget Boosts Amtrak, Cuts Public Transit Grants

December 22, 2019

The $1.4 trillion federal fiscal year 2020 spending bill contains a boost in Amtrak funding, but also slashes some spending for public transit and railroad grant programs.

President Donald J. Trump signed the two budget bills late Friday that were adopted by Congress earlier in the week.

The budget appropriates $2 billion for Amtrak, an increase of $58 million over the FY2019 budget.

However, the budget cut rail and transit programs by 3.6 percent, a drop of $586 million, below FY2019 levels.

The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Grants received $325 million, an increase of $70 million over FY2019.

However, the Federal State of Good Repair program was cut in half compared to FY2019 levels to $200 million for FY2020. It had received $400 million last year.

Public transportation received $12.9 billion in total. Although the transit formula grants increased from $9.9 billion in FY2019 to $10.1 billion in FY2020, the Capital Investment Grants program saw its funding plunge from $2.5 billion in FY2019 to $1.9 billion in FY2020.

The investment grants program is used to launch new rail services.

Amtrak funding will be broken down to $1.2 billion for the national network and $650 million for the Northeast Corridor.

The bill earmarks $100 million for help pay for the acquisition of new single-level passenger equipment to replace aging Amfleet equipment used in Amtrak’s NEC, state-supported and long-distance services.

The Rail Passengers Associated noted in an analysis posted on its website that the budget bill contains a number of policy statements favorable to intercity passenger rail.

That includes a statement of the sense of Congress that long-distance passenger rail routes and services should be sustained to ensure connectivity throughout the National Network.

The bill also directed the Federal Railroad Administration to count state acquisition costs and ongoing capital charges related to Amtrak’s new fleet to as a local match for any future applications to the CRISI or SOGR grant programs.

Amtrak was directed to provide a station agent in each Amtrak station that had a ticket agent position eliminated in fiscal year 2018 and was told to provide a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, no later than 120 days after enactment of the budget describing the changes initiated or implemented to Food and Beverage services in FY2019 and comparing those savings with Amtrak projections.

The spending bill directed Amtrak to submit a comprehensive workforce analysis for the Amtrak Police Department.

The passenger carrier was prohibited from using funds from the bill to reduce the total number of Amtrak Police Department uniformed officers patrolling on board passenger trains or at stations, facilities or rights-of-way below the staffing level on May 1, 2019.

Congress Inching Toward OK of FY2020 Funding

December 11, 2019

The Rail Passengers Association reported last week that Congress is making progress toward reaching an agreement for fiscal year 2020 transportation appropriations.

Congress faces a Dec. 20 deadline to get budgets for FY2020 approved. A continuing resolution funding the federal government in the absence of approved appropriations expires on that date.

RPA did not provide many details about the transportation budget deal other than to say that leaders of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate have agree on top-line numbers for transportation spending.

That funding includes a boost for Amtrak spending.

Reportedly, the transportation spending bill will be among the earliest budget bills to be voted on by Congress.

Congressional leaders were said to be working on 12 separate appropriations bills that need to be passed before the continuing resolution expires.