As of December 21, at 5:00 p.m., both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed separate Continuing Resolution (CR) bills to keep the Federal Government open, but there are significant differences between the two bills—including funding requested by President Trump for a border wall—that make a partial Federal Government shutdown increasingly likely. President Trump has stated that he will not sign a CR that does not include significant border wall funding.

Both the House of Representatives and Senate separately passed CRs that provide continued appropriations until February 8, 2019. The House-passed CR included $5.7 billion for border wall funding that President Trump requested and $7.8 billion in disaster relief funding, including $10.5 million for the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Emergency Relief program for public transportation systems affected by major declared disasters in 2018. The Senate-passed CR is a “clean” CR that does not include additional funding for the border wall or disaster relief. Currently, the House, Senate, and President appear at an impasse on resolving their differences.

If Congress and the President are unable to resolve their differences and extend the Continuing Resolution by midnight tonight, this lapse in government funding will cause a partial Federal Government shutdown. The impacts of a partial government shutdown will differ across Federal agencies due to the role of the agency and its funding source.

If appropriations lapse, the overwhelming majority of agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will shut down. Based on DOT’s December 2018 shutdown plan, during a lapse in annual appropriations, FTA will not be able to execute grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts. Public transportation agencies who rely on grants to help fund operations and capital projects will not receive their reimbursements during the partial government shutdown. In terms of workforce, the FTA will furlough 88 percent of its employees (furloughing 493 FTA employees). Most operations of the FTA will cease to function except for issues related to life and safety. Conversely, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will continue to operate because the agency’s administrative expenses are funded differently from FTA.

Congress Passes the Department of Transportation Reports Harmonization Act

On December 21, the House of Representatives passed S. 3367, the “Department of Transportation Reports Harmonization Act”, by a vote of 381 – 2, clearing the bill for the President. This bill was introduced by Senator John Thune (R-SD) on August 22, 2018. This bill amends certain transportation-related reporting requirements. It also requires that the Secretary of Transportation make publicly available a report that is sent to Congress biennially on the progress of aligning Federal environmental reviews. In addition, the bill requires Amtrak to report regarding efforts to improve the safety and security of the Northeast Corridor when Amtrak requests a Federal grant. This reporting requirement is currently the responsibility of the Secretary of Transportation.

Finally, the bill sunsets two rail advisory councils and committees. The Northeast Corridor Safety Committee is terminated when the Secretary determines that positive train control has been fully implemented on the Northeast Corridor; and the advisory board of the National Rail Cooperative Research Program Oversight Committee terminates as of January 1, 2019. The Senate passed S. 3367 on December 18. To view the bill, please click here.

BUILD Grants Awarded for Several Critical Public Transportation Projects

On December 11, DOT announced nearly $1.5 billion of Fiscal Year 2018 Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant awards, of which $195 million is awarded to public transportation-related projects. Thirteen percent of the grants were for 15 public transportation-related projects across the country in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

Transit-Oriented Development Grants Awarded to Improve Transit Access

FTA has awarded $16.6 million to 20 organizations around the country through its Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning, which assists communities that are developing new or expanded public transit systems. The program provides funding to project sponsors who will integrate land use and transportation planning efforts with eligible public transit projects. The grants will fund planning to support ridership, multimodal connectivity and mixed-use development near stations.  To view the FTA announcement on these grants, please click here.

FTA Publishes Rule on Prevention of Alcohol Misuse and Prohibited Drug Use in Transit Operations

On December 12, the FTA published a rule that will increase the minimum rate of random drug testing from 25 percent to 50 percent of covered employees for employers subject to FTA’s drug and alcohol regulation. To view the rule in the Federal Register, please click here.  To view our previous Legislative Update on the initial rule announcement, please click here.

And finally, Happy Holidays from APTA’s Government Affairs team! We wish you all the best in the coming year.

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