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American Public Transportation Association

 Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015



On Friday, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released their long-term authorization legislation, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015.  This bill is scheduled to be marked up by the committee Thursday, October 22, at 10 am.   The bi-partisan bill was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), along with Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).  The bill authorizes transit and highway programs for fiscal years 2016 through 2021.  Although the bill as introduced has no financing title from the Ways and Means Committee, it is expected that the finance title will provide funding for only the first three years of the bill, similar to the recently passed Senate DRIVE Act.  One difference from the Senate-passed bill is that the House bill would “lock up” funding during the final three years of the bill, unless Congress passes funding for those years in the interim. 

After marking up the bill in committee this week, House leaders hope to pass the measure on the House Floor during the week of October 26, before the expiration of the current MAP-21 extension on October 29.  Even if the House approves the bill next week, before expiration of the current extension, leaders from both Houses have acknowledged that they will need to pass another short-term MAP-21 in order to work our differences in the respective bills in a conference committee.

The House bill generally assumes baseline funding for the federal transit program over the six-year authorization period.  Overall, it increases transit funding by just under 2 percent in year one, just under 6 percent over three years, and 12.4 percent over the life of the bill.  In comparison, the Senate DRIVE Act increases the program by just under 9 percent in year one, 14.6 percent over three years, and by 25 percent over the life of the bill.

While the bill does create a new discretionary bus/bus facilities program at $90 million in year one and $200 million annually in subsequent years (increasing total bus/bus facility funding by 21.6 percent in year one and 47.7 percent in year two), funding limits in the bill prevented the committee from providing needed growth in core formula and state of good repair programs. APTA has also expressed concerns about provisions that increase Buy America domestic content requirements for rolling stock, as well as provisions that reduce the federal share for new start investments and reduce the flexibility of state and local sponsors to utilize other federal funds for certain projects.  The bill does include language, reviewed by both the House and Senate, which would extend the deadline for the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) systems on the nation’s commuter railroads. 

To view a chart of major program authorization levels for the STRR Act as introduced, please click here​.  Information on policy changes to major programs can also be found below:​


​Fiscal Year ​FY 2015 ​FY 2016 ​FY 2017 ​FY 2018 ​FY 2019 ​FY 2020 ​FY 2021​​​​​​​
​Authorization (in millions) ​4,458.7 ​4,458.7 4,458.7 ​4,549.2 4,640.1 4,734.7 4,829.4​​​​
​Growth Over FY 2015 ​--- 0.0% 0.0% 2.0% 4.1% 6.2% 8.3%​​​​​​​


​ Fiscal Year ​FY 2015 ​FY 2016 ​FY 2017 ​FY 2018 ​FY 2019 ​FY 2020 ​FY 2021​​​​​​​
​Authorization (in millions) ​607.8 ​607.8 ​607.8 ​620.1 ​632.5 ​​​​​ ​645.4 ​658.3​
​Growth Over
FY 2015
​--- ​0.0% ​​ ​0.0% ​2.0% ​4.1% ​6.2% ​8.3%​​​​

The bill allows the local share of project costs to be provided from non-government sources other than revenues from public transportation services; and advertising sales and concessions revenues. 

It also allows costs to a private operator for providing intercity bus service to which feeder service connects, to may be used as the local match for the operating costs of the feeder service, including all operating and capital costs, regardless of whether or not it is offset by revenue from the service.​


​ Fiscal Year ​FY 2015 FY 2016​ ​FY 2017 FY 2018​ FY 2019 FY 2020​ ​FY 2021​
​Authorization (in millions) ​1,907.0 ​2,029.0 ​2,065.0 ​2,106.0 ​2,149.0 ​2,193.0 ​2,237.0​​​​​​
​Growth Over FY 2015​ ​--- ​6.4% ​8.3% ​10.4% ​​​ ​12.7% ​15.0% ​17.3%​​​

The bill reduces the maximum government share for a new start or small start project from 80 percent to 50 percent.  It also requires that the remaining project costs be provided by cash from non-government sources other than revenues from public transportation services; advertising sales revenues and concessions; an undistributed cash surplus, a replacement or depreciation cash fund, or reserve or new capital; or from amounts appropriated or otherwise made available to a department or agency of the government other than DOT that are eligible to be spent on transportation.  APTA has expressed concerns about the reduced Federal match and the latter provision (other than DOT) because it may block highway flex funds from being used for the local match. 

It also allows an optional early rating for small start projects after completing the NEPA review process.

The bill adds a special rule prohibiting the Secretary from reducing or eliminating the capital costs of art and landscaping elements from the annualized capital cost calculation.


Within the High Intensity Motorbus State of Good Repair program, the definition of “high intensity motorbus” is revised and now refers to public transportation that is provided on high-occupancy vehicle lanes during peak hours.

Within the High-Intensity Fixed Guideway State of Good Repair program, the bill allows funding recipients, in an urbanized area, to utilize grant funding for projects unrelated to state of good repair purposes if they demonstrate to the Secretary that their high intensity motorbus vehicles are in a state of good repair.

Lastly, the bill maintains a program federal share for State of Good Repair capital projects at 80 percent and requires that the remaining local match be funded from (in cash) non-Government sources other than revenues from providing public transportation services; advertising or concessions revenues; an undistributed cash surplus, a replacement or depreciation cash fund or reserve, or new capital; or amounts appropriated or otherwise made available to a department or agency of the Government (other than the Department of Transportation) that are eligible to be expended for transportation.

This last element (other than the Department of Transportation), is newly proposed language which would prohibit the use of flexed FHWA funding as a source of local match for State of Good Repair projects.  APTA has expressed concerns about this provision, and is working with the Committee to address it.


The bill maintains the current formula portion of the program and establishes a new competitive Bus/Bus Facilities State of Good Repair grant program.  The Secretary must consider the age and condition of buses, bus fleets, related equipment, and bus-related facilities of an eligible applicant when making funding selections under the competitive program.  Additionally, regarding the competitive program:

  • a summary of final scores for selected projects, metrics, and other evaluations used in awarding grants will be published in the Federal Register;
  • awarded funding will be available for two fiscal years after the fiscal year funding is initially made available;
  • of the total program dollars, not more than 15 percent in fiscal year 2016 and not more than 5 percent in fiscal years 2017-2021 may be awarded to a single recipient; and
  • if the total amount of program funding for a fiscal year is not awarded, the Secretary may allocate the balance through section 5307 and 5311 formula grant programs.
Lastly, the bill maintains a federal share for Bus and Bus Facilities projects at 80 percent and requires that the remaining local match be funded from:

  • in cash from non-Government sources other than revenues from providing public transportation services;
  • from revenues derived from the sale of advertising and concessions;
  • from an undistributed cash surplus, a replacement or depreciation cash fund or reserve, or new capital; or
  • ​from amounts received under a service agreement with a State or local social service agency or private social service organization.

Similar to the Senate bill, the House bill (Section 3011) increases the Buy America content requirement for transit rolling stock from the current level of 60 percent to 70 percent by FY 2020. The fact that both bills have similar language would largely limit negotiations between the House and the Senate on this provision because both chambers would have almost the same position.  APTA has opposed the increase in the Buy America domestic content requirement, weighing in with T&I Committee members and their staff which can be found here.

An amendment may be offered in Committee that would require DOT to direct the TRB to conduct a comprehensive study of the potential benefits and adverse consequences of the increase in Buy America content contained in the bill. 

Unlike the Senate bill, the STRR Act does not include language that allows the Secretary to include the cost of domestic iron or steel used in rolling stock frames in the calculation of domestic content, or Senate language that requires the Secretary, upon denial of a Buy America waiver, to issue a written certification that the item is produced in the United States in a sufficient and reasonably available amount, the item is of satisfactory quality, and include a list of known manufacturers in the United States from which the item can be obtained.

Similar to the Senate bill, the House bill allows funds raised from “value capture” to be used for the local match for capital projects and operating costs.


Similar to the Senate bill, the House bill (Section 3018) would reform the procurement process by allowing cooperative procurement contracts between a state government, one or more vendors, and transit agencies.  Agencies may participate in a cooperative procurement regardless of whether they are in the same state.  The decision to participate in such a contract is voluntary. 

Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill does not include provisions to allow for a pilot “GSA-type” procurement.  However, the House bill does establish a “Joint Procurement Clearinghouse” that would allow grantees to “aggregate planned rolling stock purchases and identify joint procurement participants.”  Participation would again be voluntary, and no grantee would be required to submit information to the database. 

Additionally, the bill (Section 3011) allows the federal share to be up to 85 percent for the acquisition of a “base model bus,” which is defined as “a heavy-duty public transportation bus manufactured to meet, but not exceed, transit specific minimum performance criteria developed by the Secretary.’’


The bill requires Secretary to collect, review and disseminate to public transit agencies innovative practices, program models, new service delivery methods, and findings from the report to Congress on performance measures required under MAP-21 and TCRP reports.


The bill allows, subject to bylaws or enabling statute of the MPO, a representative of a public transportation provider to also serve as the representative of a local municipality.  It also amends the scope of the planning process for statewide plans to include improving the resiliency and reliability of the transportation system.


The bill sets the government share for low or no emission vehicle deployment at 80 percent of project costs unless the grant recipient requests a lower match percentage.  Currently, the match for these vehicles is set at 85 percent.


The bill moves the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) from its own section to the section on public transportation innovation, consolidating research and development into one section.  In addition, it calls on the Secretary of Transportation to create in independent governing board for TCRP that is required to recommend public transportation research, development, and technology transfer activities. 


The bill consolidates sections on technical assistance and standards development and human resources and training, including the National Transit Institute.

The bill also requires that eligible programs for grants made under the innovative public transportation frontline workforce development programs develop apprenticeships for transit maintenance and operations occupations; build local, regional, and statewide transit training partnerships to identify and address workforce skill gaps; provide improved capacity for safety, security, and emergency preparedness; or address current or projected workforce shortages by developing career pathway partnerships with high schools, community colleges and other community organizations for recruiting and training underrepresented populations.

The bill expands requirements of the Secretary to select recipients for grants made under the innovative public transportation frontline workforce development programs to include recipients that advance opportunities for minorities, women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, low-income populations, and other underserved populations.  In addition, it requires grant recipients to demonstrate outcomes for any program that includes skills training, on-the-job training and work-based learning.

Finally, the bill allows the Secretary to use up to 1 percent of the amounts made under the innovative public transportation frontline workforce development programs for technical assistance.


The bill reduces the government share of projects to provide access for bicycles to public transportation facilities from 90 percent to 80 percent, and from 95 percent to 80 percent for urban areas with populations more than 200,000. 


The bill mandates that the Interagency Transportation Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (the Council), established via E.O. 13330, complete a strategic plan within one year of the bill’s passage that:

(a) outlines roles and responsibilities for each federal agency with respect to local coordination, including non-emergency medical transportation;
(b) identifies a strategy to strengthen interagency coordination;
(c) addresses outstanding recommendations made by the Council in its 2005 report to the President;
(d) addresses recommendations previously made by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on local coordination of transportation services;
(e) proposes changes to federal regulations that will eliminate barriers to local transportation coordination, including non-emergency medical transportation; and
(f) recommends changes to federal laws, except those within 49 U.S. Code Chapter 53, that will eliminate barriers to local transportation coordination, including non-emergency medical transportation.

The bill also directs the Council to develop a cost-sharing policy among federal agencies.


The bill requires that the U.S. Department of Transportation National Public Transportation Safety Plan include minimum safety standards to ensure the safe operation of public transportation systems:

The bill also grants the Secretary the authority to withhold up to 25 percent of section 5307 funding from a recipient that fails to comply with federal public transportation safety laws. 

The bill mandates that the Secretary conduct a review of the effectiveness of current safety standards and protocols used by public transportation systems.  The review will include a wide range of topics including:  emergency preparedness plans and training; maintenance, testing, and inspection programs; rail and bus design; fatigue management; vehicle crash worthiness and avoidance systems; and other rail and bus operations safety issues.

After completing the review, the Secretary must consult with public transportation industry representatives and evaluate the need to establish additional federal minimum public transportation safety standards.  The Secretary will ultimately develop a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the safety of public transportation available and publish them on the U.S. DOT website.

The bill requires the Secretary to issue a NPRM regarding protecting transit operators from customer assaults.  The NPRM will consider:

1) different safety needs of drivers of different modes;
2) differences in operating environments;
3) the use of technology to mitigate driver assault risks;
4) existing experience, from both agencies and operators who already are using or testing driver as sault mitigation infrastructure; and
5) the impact of the rule on future rolling stock procurements and vehicles currently in revenue service.


The bill requires GAO to conduct a study to determine whether it is in the public interest to withhold from discovery or admission into evidence in a federal or state court proceeding any plan, report, data, or other information developed, produced, collected, obtained or submitted in compliance with safety management systems.


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.


The six-year House bill funds federal highway programs at $261 billion.  Like the transit program, the highway program is funded at only baseline levels.  The Surface Transportation Program (STP) (Section 1106), which can be used in part to fund public transportation projects, is transitioned into a block grant program.  Any project eligible for STP funds under MAP-21 continues to be eligible under the block grant program.  The percentage of funding sub-allocated based on population is increased from 50 percent to 55 percent over the term of the bill.

Many states also use a portion of their Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funds for transit.  The House bill (Section 1109) provides greater flexibility for states that have never had a nonattainment area under the Clean Air Act to use those funds for any CMAQ or STP eligible project. Other states that receive more funds under STRR Act than they would have under MAP-21 are able to use the additional funds for any CMAQ or STP eligible project. 

The House bill creates a new discretionary competitive grant program (Section 1111), called the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program funded at levels between $725 and $750 million over the six-year bill.  As you would expect from the title, this program focuses on large, nationally and regionally significant freight transportation programs on the National Highway System.  Eligible projects include highway and freight projects on the National Highway System, intermodal or rail freight projects carried out on the National Multimodal Freight Network, and railway-highway grade crossing or separation projects. 

The bill also increases the set-aside under current law for railway-highway grade crossing program set-aside from the Highway Safety Improvement Program from the MAP-21 level of $220 million per year by $5 million per year, rising to $250 million in 2021.


The bill allows revenue generated from value capture to be used as local matching funds for capital projects and operating costs.

The bill prohibits grants from being used to pay incremental costs of incorporating art or landscaping into facilities, including the costs of an artist on the design team.

The bill also allows grants used to acquire base-model buses with up to an 85 percent Federal match for the net project cost.
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