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American Public Transportation Association

 Action Alert - House Will Vote on Amendments on Transit

11/2/2015

The House of Representatives bill will begin consideration of its Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act this week, with the House Rules Committee beginning its work on the bill today. The bill is expected to be on the House floor in the coming days, with consideration of amendments expected to begin on Wednesday, November 4. More than 250 amendments have been filed to the bill, a large number of which may be in order on the House floor this week, with a potential marathon of votes taking place. Click here​ to access the full list of amendments that have been filed. The House Rules Committee will meet again on Tuesday to determine which amendments will be in order.

Urgent action is required, and it is important that you contact your representatives to oppose amendments that would harm public transportation, or support those that would help.

There are a number of amendments that have been offered that would be highly detrimental for public transportation.

APTA strongly opposes:

  • An amendment from Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL) would permanently terminate the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund and devolve the federal transit and highway programs to the states. APTA strongly opposes any amendment to eliminate the Federal Transit Program or devolve Federal highway and transit programs.
  • An amendment from Representative John Culberson (R-TX) that would require new start, small start or core capacity grant recipients to have a 1:1 assets to liabilities ratio. Initial indications are that no large transit agency would be able to meet this standard, and it would likely have a chilling effect on any future effort to expand service.
  • An amendment from Representative Steve Russell (R-OK) would prohibit federal funds from going toward streetcar projects. Local decision making should be the primary force dictating modal choice. 
It is crucial that you tell your representatives to vote against these and any other amendment that would restrict public transportation funding or limit the options of states and local communities.
 
A number of other amendments would affect public transportation either directly or indirectly. We have provided APTA’s views on a limited number of those amendments.

APTA opposes:

  • An amendment by Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), and Jim Langevin (D-RI) that would allow local transit agencies that have demonstrated paratransit improvement activities the flexibility to use up to 20 percent of their Section 5307 funds for ADA paratransit costs, including operating costs. While this is a well-intentioned amendment aimed at addressing increasing ADA paratransit costs, transit agencies already have authority to use up to 10 percent for such purposes. Transit systems can also now use formula funds to pay for capital expenses associated with ADA service, and they do not have adequate resources to address existing capital needs that already exceed available 5307 funds. Greater investment is needed at all levels of government to address the growing demand for public transportation and paratransit service.
  • An amendment by Representatives Jaimie Herrera-Beutler (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) that would eliminate the High Density State Apportionments under Sec. 5340 and redirect those funds to support an increase in Sec. 5339 Bus and Bus Facilities grants. While the sponsors of this well-intentioned amendment are seeking to increase funding for bus and bus facilities discretionary capital grants, they do it in a way that is inconsistent with APTA’s authorization recommendations, and by using funds that APTA proposed to distribute to all transit systems under the urban and rural formula programs. APTA’s authorization recommendations call for repurposing Sec. 5340 funding into the core Urban and Rural formula programs, thereby redirecting those funds to all agencies through the broader formula programs. Greater investment is necessary in order to address growing demand across all programs, and while APTA strongly supports increasing bus capital investment, we support increased bus investment through growth of the program.
  • An amendment by Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) that would allow private providers of van pool and commuter bus services to submit their service data to the National Transit Database, and require a mandatory pass-through of 5307 and 5311 funds to private providers, under certain conditions. Any funds received by a designated recipient as a result of the calculation shall be transferred to the provider.
APTA supports:
 
  • An amendment by Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and Robert Dold (R-IL) that would restore some flexibility for funding for transit capital investment projects. (see below)
  • An amendment by Representatives Corrine Brown (D-FL), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Tom Rice (R-SC) that would create a National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure which will advise the Secretary of Transportation on infrastructure needs related to the use of the nation’s intermodal transportation network to facilitate travel and tourism.
  • An amendment Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-FL) that would index gas and diesel taxes to inflation and direct those increases to the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account.
  • A separate bipartisan amendment by Representatives James Renacci (R-OH), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), and Charles Rangel (D-NY) would establish a bicameral task force to offer ideas to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent over the long term. If Congress fails to agree on a solvency plan by the end of 2018, the plan includes a trigger to raise fuel taxes to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through 2025. The amendment is similar to a bill introduced by the group earlier this year, and supported by APTA.
  • An amendment by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), perhaps the loudest gas tax cheerleader in Congress, filed an amendment based on his bill to bump up gas and diesel taxes over the next three years and index the fees to inflation. 
APTA is continuing our review of amendments. Keep an eye out for additional information.

Update on Changes to Transit Capital Program Matching Funds and Flex Funds – Lipinski, Nadler, Dold Amendment

When originally introduced, the House bill contained language that would have lowered the federal share for new starts, core capacity, and small starts projects from a maximum of 80 percent to a maximum of 50 percent. Additionally, the bill would have limited the use of other DOT program funds such as surface transportation program (STP), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), TIFIA, or TIGER grant funds to be used as the local share of both new starts and state of good repair projects.

Your calls to your representatives helped facilitate negotiations that resulted in Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Bob Dold (R-IL) introducing a compromise amendment that will improve the House bill by restoring the 80 federal share for core capacity and small starts projects, as well as ensuring that flex funds are not restricted for state of good repair projects. The amendment also allows New Starts projects to use CMAQ, TIFIA, and TIGER grant funds for the local share, though STP continues to be restricted for this program only.

APTA supports the amendment, which Committee leadership is expected to accept. However, APTA has been clear that we will continue to work with the Congress as this bill moves on to a conference committee. Our support of this compromise position to improve the House bill does not mean that we will support this as the final position in a future conference between the House and the Senate. Specifically, we will continue to insist that Congress keep the 80 percent maximum federal share for new starts programs and continue to allow agencies to flex STP funds for new starts. Thank you again for your calls on this issue, and your continued efforts as this bill moves through the legislative process.​
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