On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3819, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015, by voice vote. This legislation would extend the surface transportation authorization from October 29 through November 20, 2015. Due to funds already appropriated and being collected through the gas tax, no additional revenue was required for this authorization. Lawmakers are hopeful, with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reporting out their six-year authorization bill earlier this week that this will provide enough time to reconcile differences in both chambers' bills in conference.
The bill includes a bipartisan agreement extending the deadline for installation of PTC from December 31, 2015 to December 31, 2018. It requires revised plans within 90 days of enactment outlining implementation plan details. After this three-year period, the legislation gives the Secretary authority to extend, on an individual basis, a deadline for an additional two years. Such extensions would require a more detailed Alternative Schedule and Sequence on implementation of PTC.
Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Bill Shuster (R-PA) stated: "H.R. 3819 also recognizes that failing to extend the Positive Train Control deadline now will have devastating economic impacts. Not only will railroads stop shipping important chemicals critical to manufacturing, agriculture, clean drinking water, and other industrial activities, but passenger and commuter rail transportation will virtually screech to a halt. A PTC-related rail shutdown would pull $30 billion out of the economy in the first quarter and lead to 700,000 jobs lost in just one month. It's our responsibility to extend this deadline now, and avoid shutting down much of our rail system."
Changes to Transit Capital Program Matching Funds in House Bill
During last week's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup of the House surface transportation reauthorization bill (H.R. 3763), Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) withdrew their amendment which would have struck language in the bill prohibiting states and local governments from using other DOT program funds (surface transportation program (STP), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), or TIGER grant funds) as part of the local match for both new starts and state of good repair (SOGR) projects. They withdrew the amendment based on a commitment by Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) to continue working with Representatives Lipinski and Nadler on this provision in the bill.
Representatives Lipinski and Nadler have now drafted a letter to Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio, and to Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves and Ranking Member Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) , asking that they strike the prohibition on using DOT flexible program funds toward the required local match for Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants and State of Good Repair Grants. APTA supports the effort by Representatives Lipinski and Nadler and has urged Congress to preserve current law regarding the use of these funds.
We ask that you call Members of your delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, explain the importance of preserving current law that provides flexibility to use other DOT program funds as part of the local share for new starts and state of good repair projects, and ask that they sign the Lipinski/Nadler letter. Also urge them to share their concerns with Chairman Shuster and ranking member DeFazio. Those members wishing to sign the letter can contact Andrew in Representative Lipinski's office.
Finally, we also ask that you send information to APTA staff on the impacts this language would have on your projects as we continue to work with Committee leadership and staff, Congressman Lipinski and Congressman Nadler on this issue.
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Approves Acting-Administrator Feinberg
Also on Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the nomination of Federal Railroad Administration Acting-Administrator Sarah Feinberg by a vote of 19 – 1. With such a wide margin of support from the Committee of jurisdiction, it is expected that the nomination will be approved before the full Senate. Feinberg has been in her position since January 9, 2015 when she was nominated by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.