Posts Tagged ‘Federal transportation funding’

House Budget Bill Boosts Transportation Spending

July 19, 2021

The House Appropriations Committee last week approved a spending bill for fiscal year 2022 that would boost spending on transportation programs over FY2021 levels.

The bill, known as the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies legislation provides an increase of $1.9 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

USDOT is allocated $105.7 billion in budgetary resources, a 22 percent increase above the FY2021 enacted level ($86.7 billion) and President Joseph Biden’s FY2022 budget request of $87 billion.

Among the spending levels authorized for transportation programs are:

• $1.2 billion for National Infrastructure Investments, a 20 percent increase from FY 2021. It includes $20 million for Transportation Planning Grants to assist areas of persistent poverty, a 100 percent increase over FY 2021. An additional $100 million is included for a new grant program to “spur thriving communities nationwide.”

•$4.1 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, up 46 percent from FY 2021. This includes $625 million for the new Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization, and Expansion (PRIME) grant program “to support projects that improve, expand or establish passenger rail service”; $500 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program, a 33 percent increase from FY 2021; $2.7 billion for Amtrak, a 35 percent boost over FY 2021, which includes $1.2 billion for Northeast Corridor Grants and $1.5 billion for National Network Grants.

• $15.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, including $12.2 billion for Transit Formula Grants to expand bus fleets and increase the transit state of good repair; $2.5 billion for Capital Investment Grants to construct more than 23 new transit routes nationwide, a 22 percent increase above the FY 2021 enacted level and equal to the president’s budget request; and $580 million for Transit Infrastructure Grants to purchase more than 300 zero-emission buses and 400 diesel buses, and to support “transformative research for transit systems,” which is a 12 percent increase above FY 2021.

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.

Biden Appoints Team to Review Transportation Programs

November 24, 2020

A Los Angeles public transit executive has been appointed to lead a team reviewing transportation programs for President-Elect Joseph Biden.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Phillip A. Washington will lead the 18-member team which includes members from labor unions, academia, public transportation agencies, retired members of Congress, think tanks, private consultants, and the aviation field.

The team will advise the incoming Biden administration  on the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Maritime Commission among other transportation programs and agencies.

It is one of 39 agency review teams that have been established to advise Biden. All members of the transportation team will be volunteers.

The transportation review team will meet with former agency officials and experts who closely follow federal agencies, and with officials from think tanks, labor groups and trade associations.

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

September 24, 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 Amtrak 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 Committee Gives Amtrak Extra Funding

July 18, 2020

The House Appropriations Committee has voted to give Amtrak $10 billion in federal fiscal year 2021 with a mandate that long-distance service continue to operate daily.

By a 30-22 vote the committee approved the $18.9 billion Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill, which includes transportation funding for federal fiscal year 2021.

The THUD bill was one of 24 that the committee marked up during the past 10 days and sent to the House floor.

The bill allocates $3 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, of which more than two-thirds of which will go to Amtrak.

That includes $2 billion for the passenger carrier through the standard budgeting process. Another $3 billion was allocated for the National Network and $5 billion for the Northeast Corridor as part of an economic stimulus title.

The stimulus title contains $75 billion to help the U.S. economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that $21 billion will go for rail and transit operations.

“The emergency funding in this bill is pivotal to kick start a strong and equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey.

The committee approved on a voice vote an amendment requiring the use of masks by passenger and employees on airlines, Amtrak, and in large transit agencies, as well as enhanced sanitation measures.

Congressional watchers expect the transportation and other appropriations bills to be passed by the full House but their fate in the Senate is uncertain.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby is resisting demands of Democrats on the committee to be allowed to offer amendments on COVID-19 emergency aid and police reforms.

Shelby said that would violate a previous agreement on how bi-partisan bills are to be considered.

Some believe Congress will wind up passing a series of continuing resolutions to keep federal spending at its current levels into the next fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1.

It remains to be seen if Congress will adopt spending bills for FY2021 in the lame duck session following the November election or leave that business for the next Congress that will be seated in January 2021.

The $2.05 billion in the bill for standard Amtrak funding is $50 million above the enacted appropriation for the passenger carrier in FY2020 and $1.1 billion above the Trump administration’s budget request.

The bill allocates $18.9 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.

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.

Amtrak Funding Would Triple Under Proposed Bill

June 3, 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 the 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.