To the Members of the United States Congress:
On behalf of the more than 1,500 member organizations of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), I write to share our opposition to several troubling proposals included in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 “skinny” budget blueprint that would eliminate existing public transportation infrastructure programs that enjoy bipartisan support.
Specifically, the budget blueprint requests that Congress phase out the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program for new capacity and expansion (New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity) projects. Although it proposes to honor existing, signed grant agreements, the blueprint suggests the U.S. Department of Transportation will not sign additional grant agreements for the 55 projects already in the planning pipeline, and ultimately phase out the program. A list of projects that would be at risk if the administration declines to sign any additional grant agreements is enclosed for your reference.
The blueprint also proposes eliminating funding for the TIGER grant program and operating support for Amtrak’s long-distance routes. Also troubling is the proposal to cut the Transit Security Grant Program, which supports anti-terror efforts in and around public transit systems, by 25 percent.
The role of the federal government is key to facilitating safe and efficient surface transportation, including public transportation, and transit enhances our economic competitiveness. Nearly 90 percent of public transportation trips directly benefit the economy by getting people to work and connecting them to local businesses.
Congress reaffirmed this federal role when it authorized $2.3 billion annually, through 2020, for the CIG program in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by bipartisan votes of 83-16 in the Senate and 359-65 in the House of Representatives. Eliminating this program in the middle of the authorization would pull the rug out from under communities that have spent local, state and federal resources advancing their projects through the CIG process with the expectation that Congress would make good on the commitment made to this program by the FAST Act.
The FAST Act also reaffirmed Congressional support for Amtrak and authorized nearly $5.5 billion through 2020 for Amtrak’s National Network, which includes operating support for long-distance routes that move more than 4 million passengers each year on its 15 routes covering 23 states. Further, the FAST Act introduced new accounting, administrative and managerial reforms to ensure that these dollars are spent efficiently, and these measures should be given time to be fully implemented and evaluated before further changes are considered.
Additionally, in recognition of TIGER’s huge popularity, Congress routinely funds this program at more than $500 million annually, which is oversubscribed and supports important multimodal projects that do not always lend themselves to the traditional formula funding programs. The TIGER grant program has supported critical infrastructure projects in communities of all sizes around the country and should be preserved.
Lastly, America’s transportation infrastructure has long been a top target for terrorists seeking to attack the U.S. homeland. In recognition of that threat, Congress routinely appropriates funding for the Transit Security Grant Program ($86 million in FY 2016) to assist local communities secure this critical infrastructure. Cutting this important program would put systems and riders around the country at risk.
We urge you to strongly oppose these proposed funding reductions both as you conclude the FY 2017 appropriations legislation and turn to the FY 2018 budget and appropriations process. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to support all federal public transportation programs and implement all FAST Act programs at their authorized levels.
Richard A. White
Acting President & CEO