On November 10, President-Elect Biden announced his agency review teams for various agencies in the federal government. These review teams are responsible for understanding how each agency functions and play a vital role in ensuring a smooth transition for the new administration. APTA member Phil Washington, President and CEO of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, will head the Department of Transportation (DOT) review team. This 18-member team, comprised of experts from across various transportation modes, will review DOT, its various administrations, the National Transportation Safety Board, Amtrak, and the Federal Maritime Commission.
Senate Holds Leadership Elections
On Tuesday (November 10), members of the Senate Republican Conference and Democratic Caucus held leadership elections for the 117th Congress. As expected, there were no significant changes in the uppermost rungs of either party’s leadership:
Republican Leader: Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY)
Republican Whip: Sen. John Thune (SD)
Republican Conference Chair: Sen. John Barrasso (WY)
Democratic Leader: Sen. Charles E. Schumer (NY)
Democratic Whip: Sen. Richard Durbin (IL)
Assistant Democratic Leader: Sen. Patty Murray (WA)
Next week, the House Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference each are expected to conduct their leadership elections. For more information on the recent election outcomes and key Congressional leaders in the 117th Congress, please see updated slides from the APTA webinar on 2020 Election Outcomes: Transit Impacts at the Federal, State, and Local Levels.
Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Transportation Appropriations Bill
On Tuesday (November 10), the Senate Committee on Appropriations released all 12 of its draft Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills, including S. ____, the “Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act” (THUD Appropriations bill). The THUD Appropriations bill provides $13.0 billion for public transportation and $2.6 billion for passenger rail. In total, the bill provides $15.6 billion for public transportation and passenger rail, an increase of $145 million compared to the FY 2020 enacted level.
The House THUD Appropriations bill includes significantly more funding than the Senate bill. It provides almost $40 billion for public transportation and passenger rail, including $23.9 billion for public transit and $15.9 billion for passenger rail. The House THUD Appropriations bill provides additional funding ($5.8 billion) equal to the proposed FY 2021 funding levels of H.R. 2, the “INVEST in America Act”. Congress is not expected to complete action on the surface transportation authorization bill this fall, and this additional H.R. 2 funding is unlikely to be included in the final THUD Appropriations bill agreement. In addition, the House bill also includes $18.1 billion of additional investments for public transit and passenger rail to help the economy recover from the pandemic.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committee staffs have begun negotiating on the differences between the two bills and Congress hopes to complete action on the appropriations bills in December.
Please click here to view a table of the public transportation and intercity passenger rail funding included in the bill.
Funding Levels and Grant Awards
The Senate THUD Appropriations bill continues to provide General Fund appropriations greater than the amounts authorized in the FAST Act extension act. The bill includes an additional $702 million of General Fund appropriations, including $446 million for buses and bus facilities grants, $80 million for no or low emission bus grants, and $45 million for each of the state of good repair, rural area, and high-density state formula grant programs.
The bill also includes language blocking the Rostenkowski Test to prevent a $6 billion (or 60 percent) across-the-board cut of FY 2021 transit formula funds to each public transit agency. Although the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act (P.L. 116-159) already blocked the Rostenkowski Test for FY 2021, it is encouraging to see this provision included in the bill.
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. Up to 20 percent of these funds may be used for the subsidy and administrative costs of projects eligible for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) or Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) federal credit assistance.
Capital Investment Grants
The bill provides $1.89 billion for Capital Investment Grants (CIG), including $1.12 billion for New Starts, $400 million for Core Capacity projects, $200 million for Small Starts, and $150 million for the Expedited Project Delivery for CIG Pilot Program.
The bill prohibits the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) from impeding or hindering a project from advancing or approving projects seeking a CIG federal share of more than 40 percent and from implementing or furthering new policies detailed in FTA’s June 29, 2018 “Dear Colleague” letter to CIG project sponsors.
Finally, the bill authorizes projects in the Expedited Project Delivery for CIG Pilot Program to be eligible for funding under the CIG program without further evaluation or rating.
The bill provides $2.6 billion for passenger rail investments, including $2 billion for Amtrak grants, $340 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants, and $225 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants.