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American Public Transportation Association

 Congress Files Surface Transportation Conference Committee Report

12/1/2015

Late today, House and Senate conferees filed the conference report on the surface transportation authorization bill (H.R. 22), the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The legislative language of the bill is attached here, and the joint explanatory statement of the conferees is attached here​.

While the schedule for moving the conference report through the two Houses and to the President’s desk remains somewhat unclear, Congress may need to pass another short-term extension into next week before the current extension expires on Friday night. The House Rules Committee is expected to consider the measure Wednesday afternoon, which could allow the House to consider it as early as Thursday. It is not now clear when the Senate would take up the conference agreement.

While APTA is preparing a more detailed summary of the measure that will be sent tomorrow, we wanted to provide the following information based on a preliminary analysis of the bill.

The conference agreement fully funds a five-year $281 billion authorization bill for public transportation and highway programs. It also includes a rail title that authorizes funding for Amtrak and for intercity passenger rail grants.

Public Transportation

The bill authorizes a total of $61.1 billion over the five years for public transportation. It increases overall transit funding from $10.7 billion in FY 2015, to $11.8 billion in FY 2016 and to $12.6 billion in FY 2020. Overall, funding for transit grows by more than 10% in year one, and by almost 18% over the five-year authorization.

The measure emphasizes growth for the bus and bus facilities program and creates a new program of competitive grants for bus and bus facilities. Overall, it increases bus and bus facilities funding from $427.8 million in 2015 to $695.8 million in 2016 (+63%), and to $808.7 million in 2020 (+89%). The competitive bus grant program, which includes $55 million annually for no/low emissions buses, would grow from $268 million in 2016 to $344 million by 2020.

The agreement grows the urban formula program by less than 2% in 2016, and by 10.6% over the life of the bill. It grows the state of good repair program by almost 16% in year one and almost 24% over the life of the bill. The measure increases funding for the new starts program from $1.9 billion in 2015 to $2.3 billion in 2016, flat funding the program in subsequent years. While it reduces from 80% to 60% the federal match for new starts projects with full funding grant agreements, it preserves the 80% federal match for small starts and core capacity projects. Project sponsors could continue to use funding from other DOT flexible programs toward the 80% federal match. It preserves the growing states/high density states formula program, with very modest growth in the high-density formula and slightly higher growth in the growing states formula. It also provides modest growth in the current Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities program.

The bill funds the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) directly from the Mass Transit Account (MTA), instead of with general funds, at $5 million annually. Additionally, it funds Human Resources and Training at $4 million annually, and it funds the National Transit Institute at $5 million annually, both from the MTA.

The measure retains language included in both the House and Senate-passed bills that increases the domestic content requirement for rolling stock under FTA Buy America rules. The bill increases domestic content from the current 60% to 65% in 2018, and to 70% in 2020, and it includes new language that requires the Secretary, upon denial of a Buy America waiver, to issue a written certification that the item is produced in the U.S. in sufficient quantity and quality, along with other information. It also establishes a new way to calculate content when manufacturers procure iron or steel in the U.S. for rolling stock frames and shells.

Rail Programs

The conference agreement provides $199 million in one-time funding for implementation of positive train control (PTC) systems by commuter railroads. It authorizes a total of $200 million in 2016, rising to $650 million in 2020, for three separate rail investment programs. Under those programs, a new consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvement program is funded at $98 million in 2016, rising to $330 million in 2020. It authorizes $82 million in 2016, growing to $300 million for intercity passenger rail capital grants, and it authorizes $20 million annually for rail restoration and enhancement grants. The bill reportedly retains the current $200 million liability cap for accidents on commuter rail systems, but bill language on this provision does not seem to provide clarity on this issue.

Finally, the bill provides Amtrak funding under a new Northeast Corridor Account and a separate National Network program, with total funding for the two programs set at $1.45 billion in 2016, rising to $1.8 billion by 2020.

More details will be provided in a subsequent Legislative Alert. For questions, please contact Rob Healy at rhealy@apta.com​.​
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