Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey:
On behalf of the 1,500 member organizations of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), I write to voice our concerns with the Subcommittee’s FY 2016 bill funding the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.
The FY 2016 Subcommittee bill takes an alarming step of eliminating funding for one of the critically important national transportation research programs, the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), reducing an already underfunded Amtrak and passenger rail account, and again neglecting to provide resources to meet a congressionally mandated safety priority in positive train control (PTC) that our agencies are struggling to implement.
APTA recognizes that the overall discretionary spending allocation is severely constrained, limiting the allocation provided to the Subcommittee and, thereby, the options for the subcommittee in addressing a multitude of needs. However, we need to recognize that these are not cuts to “wasteful” programs, but rather an underfunding and elimination of equally important ones. TCRP is a program that makes our transit agencies more efficient in their use of Federal funds, providing expertise on complicated issues within the capital and operational management of an ever evolving transportation network. Amtrak’s grants were recently authorized under the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, (passed by the House of Representatives by a widely bipartisan vote of 316-101) at a level $273.5 million above the Subcommittee’s mark. That same authorization provided a minimal authorization of $300 million for state grants to expand and improve intercity passenger rail, but in the absence of appropriations, corridor improvements being pursued in 32 states will continue to languish without a Federal partner. And since the Congress mandated PTC be implemented on our nation’s railroads, only $50 million has been appropriated to address what will now cost commuter railroads $3.48 billion as the December 2015 deadline rapidly approaches. Finally, reducing funding to WMATA – an agency grappling with significant state of good repair needs – does nothing to improve transportation in our nation’s capital.
Our country deserves better. Rather than have true needs set the agenda, we are allowing an arbitrary top-line spending figure dictate the investments we make in our nation’s future. Congress needs to find the courage to respond to true needs, while also responding to the fiscal interests of the country. I urge you to work to find the resources to fund these critical national transportation priorities.