Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of Transportation’

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.

Biden Budget Proposal Would Boost Amtrak Spending 35%

May 30, 2021

Amtrak would get a 35 percent boost, most of it for capital projects, if Congress adopts the Biden administration budget.

The administration has proposed $2.7 billion for Amtrak with a major share of that funding set to be used for track and station improvements, fleet refreshment, and systemwide maintenance. Another $625 million would create a new grant program, Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization and Expansion, to develop and expand rail corridors across the nation.

The U.S Department of Transportation would receive $88 billion in total.

This includes $13.5 billion for transit projects of which $2.5 billion is for Capital Investment Grants, a $459 million increase, to accelerate projects already in process and support new projects seeking approval.

Another $550 million would go toward Transit Infrastructure Grants of which $250 million is for the Zero Emission Bus Program.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program would receive $1 billion in funding.

Stimulus Money Conveyed to Amtrak

April 28, 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation said this week that it has conveyed to Amtrak $1.69 billion in economic stimulus funds authorized by the American Rescue Act of 2021.

The funding includes $728.6 million for Amtrak’s long distance and regional trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak was directed by Congress to allocate $174 million of that total to offset what the carrier charges states for corridor services.

However, the law does not require states to restore their Amtrak corridor services to pre-pandemic levels.

Most states reduced their corridor services during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a plunge in ridership.

Several states have begun restoring suspended services but others have yet to announce their plans.

Among the routes yet to be fully restored is the Wolverine Service between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The route had three roundtrips pre-pandemic, but since March 2020 the level of service has been a single daily roundtrip.

Some Illinois and Missouri routes also continued to operate below pre-pandemic levels.

The directive also mandated that Amtrak return long-distance service to daily operation if they operated as such before last year.

Amtrak has said daily operation will be phased in over a three-weekly period beginning May 24.

The Northeast Corridor will receive $969.4 million of which $109.8 million will go to states and commuter railroads to cover their share of capital costs Amtrak charges them for using the Northeast Corridor.

Another $100.8 million will be used for debt relief that Amtrak incurred before the legislation was adopted on March 11.

Lawsuit Will Seek to Halt Texas Rail Line

April 15, 2021

A Texas county has joined a lawsuit seeking to block Texas Central from building a high-speed rail line in the Lone Star state.

Commissioners in Navarro County have retained a Dallas law firm, which has agreed to represent the county at no cost in a multi-party suit including several other counties.

The lawsuit is expected to be brought against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration over an environmental impact study related to the project.

Biden Administration Expected to Move Gateway Project Along

March 27, 2021

The Biden administration plans to approve the long-stalled Gateway Project to build new tunnels under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the announcement this week during a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Buttigieg said the U.S. Department of Transportation hopes to complete the project’s environmental impact statement by the end of June.

“I share your sense of urgency,” Buttigieg told the committee. “This is a regional issue but one of “national significance because if there was a failure in one of those tunnels, the entire U.S. economy would feel it.”

The existing tunnels are more than a century old and suffered severe damage in 2012 during superstorm Sandy.

Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains use the tunnels.

DOT No. 2 Nominee Pledges Support for Gateway Project

March 14, 2021

The Biden administration’s nominee for the No. 2 job at the U.S. Department of Transportation said during a Senate confirmation hearing that the Northeast Corridor’s Gateway Tunnel project will be a top priority of the agency.

Deputy Secretary of Transportation nominee Polly Trottenberg made the pledge in response to a question asked by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut).

“It is truly a project of national significance, and as you say, one that really would have just a massive rippling impact if we were to see those over-100-year-old tunnels under the Hudson River for some reason need to be shut down,” Trottenberg said.

She formerly served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

The $11 billion Gateway project calls for construction of two tunnels linking New York’s Penn Station and New Jersey under the Hudson River.

The two existing tunnels between the points would be rebuilt. Both were damaged in 2012 during Superstorm Sandy.

The tunnels are used by trains of Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

The current tunnels were built in 1910 by the former Pennsylvania Railroad.

“Clearly, in my view, without the Gateway Project, our rail and possibly other transportation systems will collapse on the East Coast,” Blumenthal said. “As much of an exaggeration it may seem to say it that way, it is literally true that the tunnel is decaying and increasingly decrepit. It poses a danger to transportation up and down the East Coast. It could literally cripple the transportation grid as we know it now, and yet there have been delays and foot-dragging and finger-pointing.”

Trottenberg agreed that if the tunnels were shut down it would have “a massive ripping impact.”

She said President Joseph Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “have spoken about this project, and that the Department is going to be hard at work making sure we are picking up the pace and expediting the environmental and other approvals needed for this project, and working closely, I think, with the Congress as well to make sure we have a financing and funding scheme that can get the project done.”

When asked what Congress should be doing to get the Gateway project moving, Trottenberg said the administration will be coming back to Congress for further discussion.

Blumenthal asked Trottenberg to provide a a status report within two to four weeks of her confirmation.

“If confirmed, I certainly will, Senator, and I agree, this is not a project that we can fail to complete,” Trottenberg said. “We are going to have to find a way to do Gateway.”

Buttigieg Pledges to be 2nd Biggest Rail Enthusiast

January 24, 2021

Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg said during his confirmation hearing this week before a Senate committee that he will be the second biggest passenger rail enthusiast in the Biden administration.

Pete Buttigieg

The biggest passenger rail enthusiast would be President Joseph Biden, who is well known for having commuted to Washington on Amtrak during his time in the Senate.

“As a mayor from the industrial Midwest, I will bring a bottom-up perspective on transportation programs and funding,” Buttigieg said.

“If confirmed, I look forward to working with our partners at the state, local, territorial, and tribal levels to find solutions to our infrastructure issues while we also prepare for the future of transportation at a time of great change.”

During the hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, some committee members pressed Buttigieg to favor their pet rail projects.

Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker invited Buttigieg to visit his state to talk about restoration of Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast.

Amtrak has been absent from that region of the country since 2005 when the Amtrak’s tri-weekly Sunset Limited was suspended following Hurricane Katrina.

Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal pressed Buttigieg to commit to providing federal funding to complete the Gateway Program to replace and rebuild tunnels under the Hudson River that link New York City and New Jersey.

The 111-year-old tunnels were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Buttigieg lacks a transportation industry background but as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he offered support for a project about to get underway to add double track to the South Shore Commuter line that links that South Bend and Chicago.

As mayor he also supported proposals to extend the South Shore to downtown South Bend and to establish quiet zones on Norfolk Southern and Canadian National routes in the city.

Buttigieg, who is expected to win Senate confirmation, spoke of the economic power of transportation investment, and signaled his intent to make the DOT less auto-centric.

“There are so many ways that people get around, and I think often we’ve had an auto-centric view that has forgotten, historically, about all of the other different modes,” he said.

“We want to make sure anytime we’re doing a street design that it enables cars, and bicycles, and pedestrians and any other modes—and businesses—to co-exist in a positive way, and we should be putting funding behind that.”

One of Buttigieg’s signature transportation efforts as mayor was to push for South Bend to adopt a “Smart Streets” initiative to bolster development of downtown.

This involved redesigning streets to add bike lanes and reduce vehicle lanes as well as working with the private sector to create economic development partnerships.

Buttigieg spoke about his love of Amtrak travel, including trips aboard the Lake Shore Limited during his college years.

 “I enjoy long train trips as well as short ones, and I think Americans ought to be able to enjoy the highest standard of passenger rail service,” he said.

Biden Makes Top USDOT Appointments

January 23, 2021

President Joesph Biden has made 39 appointments of top officials to serve in key U.S. Department of Transportation positions.

Amit Bose was named deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. He previously served as FRA deputy administrator, FRA chief counsel, USDOT associate general counsel and USDOT deputy assistant secretary for government affairs.

Bose also has served as vice president for HNTB Corporation and chair of the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor, and has been involved in the California High Speed Rail Project, Northeast Corridor Future, Southeast Passenger Rail and Build America Bureau.

Nuria Fernandez was named deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration

Fernandez most recently was CEO of California’s Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and has served in various executive positions at New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Chicago Transit Authority, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Lana Hurdle, deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs, will serve as acting secretary of transportation until secretary of transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Other appointments included Casey Clemmons, special assistant, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; Steve Cliff, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Carlos Monje Jr., senior adviser and acting chief of staff; Alex Pena, special assistant to the general counsel; Stephanie Pollack, deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; Diana Lopez, senior advisor to the administrator, FRA, and Subash Iyer, chief counsel, FTA.

DOT Report Urges Greater Accessibility

January 18, 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation is calling for improved accessibility to stations and new rail cars, for Amtrak, other rail passenger operators, and transit systems.

The recommendations are part of a draft Strategic Plan on Accessible Transportation released last week.

The report addresses the need for better access for people with disabilities for all forms of transportation, noting that a 2018 report estimated that 25.5 million Americans experience a travel-limiting disability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for those with disabilities to have access to transportation to connect to essential services, DOT said.

The report will be used to guide the agency’s work in the 2021-25 federal fiscal years. Public comment on the report is being accepted through Feb. 16.

Acting Secretary of Transportation Named

January 14, 2021

Steven G. Bradbury has been named acting secretary of transportation following the Jan. 11 resignation of Elaine Chao as secretary.

DOT officials said the appointment was made in accordance with the department’s established order of succession.

His term as acting secretary is expected to be brief. President-elect Joseph Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, has nominated former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg as the next secretary of transportation.

Bradbury has served as general counsel of USDOT since Nov. 27, 2017. In that role he has had authority to resolve all legal questions regarding the agency’s policies and programs.

He has also overseen DOT’s 55,000 employees and  $87 billion budget since Sept. 10, 2019, as a member of the Office of Deputy Secretary of Transportation.

Chao, who was an original member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, announced her resignation on Jan. 7, the day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Both Chao and Bradbury had pledged to work toward a smooth transition to the next leadership team of the agency.