This week the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) opened up an online survey inviting state transportation departments, transit agencies, transit operators, and other stakeholders—meaning you, the American public—to offer their opinions on what constitutes a "federal project." Through August 17, the transportation authority wants to gather these opinions in order to redefine which projects the federal government, as opposed to state and local governments, should be funding. According to the FTA, the dialogue is meant to help the agency better understand how a "federal project" definition affects project delivery and solicits opportunities to improve the process of deciding when a project, project phase, or project element is subject to federal requirements. It's important to reevaluate the definition, the FTA says, because sometimes not every element of an overall project is federally funded. The FTA hopes this effort will help it streamline and expedite investment in transit infrastructure. News has been buzzing recently surrounding the Trump administration's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan released in February and how it's seeking to cut the number of transit infrastructure projects that it's funding, going so far as declining to distribute money already approved by congress for spending. Part of the administration's plan is to shrink the FTA's Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, which provides money for "federal projects," and the spending plan indicates that the administration would like a narrower definition of what constitutes a "federal project." In turn, many projects or project elements previously covered will now be declared ineligible for the CIG program. The idea is to speed up federal investment on certain transit infrastructure, like roads and highways that cross state lines, while handing off the responsibility of paying for public transportation projects that facilitate intra-city movement, to local government agencies. According to the FTA's recently released annual recommendations for 2019, only $1.046 billion will be granted for capital investment projects next year, which is half of what was approved for 2018 and one-third of what the FTA recommended during Obama’s last year in office. As of May, the FTA had only released $1.3 billion of the $2.6 billion already approved by Congress for 2018 through the CIG program and is now suggesting that it may not appropriate the rest of the money. If the money is not distributed by the end of 2019, it will be returned to the federal treasury. This year the FTA has approved two projects for full construction grants and executed smaller grants for eight others, including Phase 2 of New York City’s Second Avenue Subway, Phoenix’s South Central Light Rail, Seattle’s Center City Connector, and Los Angeles’s Purple Line Extension. The FTA has announced that “future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.” This means that many critical projects already in the works within the CIG program may either suffer from significant delays due to lack of or decreased funding, or be stalled altogether if cities or private investors can't pay for them. The FTA is asking stakeholders to respond to this narrowing of the definition of "federal projects" by completing their online survey.
Posts tagged with "U.S. DOT":
Since 2009, the United States Department of Transportation’s TIGER program has helped realize some of the country’s most innovative and overdue urban design and transportation initiatives. Launched as part of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, TIGER grants have since provided funding for projects like the Brooklyn Greenway, Kansas City streetcar, and new light rail in the Twin Cities. By the numbers, seven rounds of TIGER funding have funneled over $4.6 billion into 342 individual projects around the country. (Check out Transportation for America’s map to see if there is a TIGER-backed project near you. Spoiler: There probably is.) As StreetsBlog explains, the structuring of these grants streamlined funding procedures, allowing these types of urban projects to flourish: “By working directly with cities and regional agencies, TIGER bypassed state DOTs more interested in big highway projects than enhancing transit, biking, and walking options.” But this month, the Republican-led Senate Commerce Committee moved to drastically change the program, effectively stripping bike lanes and multimodal projects from future funding rounds in favor of freight rail projects. This prompted a swift and massive letter-writing campaign aimed at urging senators to change course. The plan worked: This week, committee chair John Thune (R-SD) removed that language from the bill. Now we have to wait to see what happens next, as Streetsblog noted, “[the] bill appears to be on hold for at least another five months after the House passed another short-term extension of the current law.”
On Wednesday, right on deadline, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the winners of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant winners. Out of 1,400 applications totaling $60 billion in requests, the agency awarded $1.5 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to 51 transportation projects in 41 states. The projects ranged in scale from bike paths to major bridges and freight rail installations and the grants ranged in size from $3 million to $105 million. Priority was given to projects that needed federal funds in order to complete their funding package and to projects that are expected to be completed within three years. In New York, the DOT awarded $83 million to the first phase of Moynihan Station. This bit of good news for the project, which has been mired for years in funding difficulties, was bolstered yesterday when Amtrak reaffirmed its intentions to move its operations into the proposed station.