Today (May 23), the Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) of the House Committee on Appropriations marked up H.R. ____, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 THUD Appropriations bill. The measure was approved by voice vote and will be considered by the full House Committee on Appropriations in June, after the Memorial Day recess.

Funding Levels and Grant Awards

The legislation continues historic funding levels, providing $16.2 billion for public transportation and intercity passenger rail grants, including $13.5 billion for public transportation and $2.7 billion for passenger rail grants. In total, these funding levels are:

  • $150.5 million more than FY 2019 enacted funding levels (including $60.5 million for public transportation and $90 million for passenger rail grants);
  • $1.1 billion more than FY 2020 FAST Act authorization levels; and
  • $1.9 billion more than the FY 2020 President’s budget request.

In addition, section 164(a) of the bill does not allow application of the Rostenkowski Test, an administrative provision that would require a $1.2 billion (12 percent) cut to public transportation formula grants in FY 2020.

Among the funding increases, the bill provides $827 million for competitive grants for the purchase of new buses and construction of new bus facilities, which is $483 million more than authorized in the FAST Act.

To view a press release from APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas on the bill, please click here. To view a table outlining the specific funding levels for public transportation and passenger rail, please click here.

Capital Investment Grants

The bill provides $2.3 billion for Capital Investment Grants (CIG) and requires the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to obligate 80 percent ($1.8 billion) of these funds by December 31, 2021. Any funds remaining after the December 2021 deadline will be reallocated and be available for immediate obligation to project sponsors with New Start or Core Capacity projects in the Engineering phase. The CIG funds are broken down as follows:

  • $795 million for new fixed guideway projects with existing Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs);
  • $703 million for new fixed guideway projects;
  • $300 million for core capacity projects;
  • $431 million for small start projects; and
  • $50 million for the expedited project delivery pilot program.

In addition, the bill extends the FY 2018 CIG obligation deadline from December 31, 2019, to September 30, 2020, to allow additional time to obligate CIG funds, particularly for Core Capacity projects. The bill also requires FTA, within 90 days of the date of enactment of this bill, to submit a list of CIG projects to Congress of expected FFGAs in FY 2020. Finally, the bill includes numerous limitations on FTA’s administration of the CIG program including prohibiting FTA from:

  • requesting or requiring that any CIG project have a federal share lower than 50 percent of the project cost;
  • determining the CIG share for New Start or Core Capacity projects until the project has been in Engineering for at least 180 days; and
  • applying a Risk Assessment probability threshold higher than 50 percent to any project in the CIG pipeline.

Passenger Rail

The bill provides $2 billion for Amtrak grants, $350 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants, and $350 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants. Under the CRISI program, $40 million is specifically dedicated to rail-highway grade crossing projects for commuter rail authorities that experienced at least one accident investigated over the last 10 years by the National Transportation Safety Board and $55 million is dedicated for eligible projects that require acquisition of right of way, track, or track structure to support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes.

The bill does not allow the Federal Railroad Administration to take back the $2.5 billion in funding previously expended for the California high-speed rail project, or to transfer nearly $1 billion in California high-speed rail grants that were terminated last week.

BUILD Grants

The bill provides $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) (formerly TIGER) competitive grants for surface transportation projects, including public transportation and multi-modal projects. The legislation requires that the Department of Transportation (DOT) ensure equitable geographic distribution of the funds and investment in a variety of transportation modes. One-half ($500 million) of this funding must be awarded for grants in large urbanized areas (population of 200,000 or more). It also stipulates that $15 million shall be used for transit-oriented development (TOD), and $20 million shall be used for projects located in areas of persistent poverty.

Other Important Provisions

The bill stipulates that competitive grant awards for buses and bus facilities shall not be less than $1 million. In addition, the bill clarifies that loans secured through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program shall be part of the non-Federal share of project costs. Finally, the legislation extends TOD eligibility for Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loans from December 4, 2019, to September 30, 2020.

To view the markup, please click here.

Congressional Leadership Meets with White House on Budget and Infrastructure

On Tuesday (May 21), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met with White House officials to discuss how to avoid steep automatic spending cuts in FY 2020 and a default on the federal debt.

Under the current budget caps, discretionary non-defense spending will be cut by 9 percent and defense spending will be cut by 11 percent compared with the current year; any amount appropriated above the caps would be canceled through automatic cuts, known as sequestration, which would take effect starting in January 2020.

On Wednesday (May 22), House and Senate Democratic leaders met with President Trump to discuss an infrastructure bill. According to numerous reports, the meeting was very brief, and the President left the meeting before any substantive discussion of infrastructure occurred.

Rep. Blumenauer Introduces Rebuild America Act of 2019

On May 21, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 2864, the “Rebuild America Act of 2019”, which would increase the gas tax by five cents for each of the next five years. One cent of each five-cent gas tax increase is dedicated to the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund. The bill also includes a Sense of the Congress that Congress intends to replace the gas tax with a more equitable, stable source of funding within 10 years. On February 1, 2019, APTA sent a letter of strong support for this legislation, which can be viewed here. To view the bill, please click here. To view a summary of the bill, please click here.

FTA Announces $9.6 Million to Improve Transportation Access to Health Care

On May 22, FTA announced project selections totaling approximately $9.6 million to 37 projects led by transit agencies, governmental authorities and nonprofit organizations to support innovative transportation solutions to expand access to health care.

FTA’s Access and Mobility Partnership Grants focus on transportation and technology solutions to reach medical appointments, access healthy food and improve paratransit services. The program emphasizes better coordination between health care providers and transit agencies, as well as technology improvements such as mobility-on-demand shared transportation services and smart phone apps for booking services.

The selected projects reduce barriers to critical healthcare in rural America, increase access to substance abuse treatment in response to the opioid crisis and add new technologies to increase paratransit program efficiencies, among other solutions.

APTA Coalition Letters

On May 20, APTA joined a Public Finance Network (PFN) letter endorsing H.R. 2772, the “Investing in Our Communities Act”, to reinstate authority to advance refund tax-exempt municipal bonds. The letter also expresses appreciation to the more than 100 Members of Congress who signed a letter to House Committee on Ways and Means leaders expressing strong support of the tax-exempt municipal bond. To view the PFN letter, please click here.

On May 20, APTA joined a surface transportation coalition letter to Congressional leaders urging them to include a repeal of the highway contract authority rescission in any budget agreement. To view the letter, please click here.

On May 22, APTA joined a One-Rail letter to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, advocating for at least $2.6 billion for the CIG program and $1 billion for the BUILD program. The letter also advocates for funding passenger rail programs at or above FAST Act authorization levels. To view the letter, please click here.

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