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Complete Streets Federal Policy Transportation Funding

DC Streetsblog: Obama Admin Will Make Its Transportation Push During the Next Congress

Obama Admin Will Make Its Transportation Push During the Next Congress

by Tanya Snyder on September 28, 2010

President Obama is “going to throw his support behind a six-year reauthorization of the transportation program” in Congress. That was the word today from Roy Kienitz, who represented the Transportation Department today as he testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

U.S. DOT’s Roy Kienitz said that in some cases, federal funding should support reconstructing bridges to work for more than just cars. Concept for bike-ped path on Cleveland’s Innerbelt Crossing: GreenCityBlueLake.
In a meeting with transportation reform advocates last week, Secretary Ray LaHood indicated that the administration’s proposal will drop early next year. Today Kienitz tipped his hat to the reform community in describing the goals the administration has in mind:

The first thing you have to do is name your goals if you want to make sure you’re pursuing them… Our strategic goals are pretty simple: economic competitiveness, safety, state of good repair of the existing system, environmental sustainability, and community livability.

Today’s hearing was about financing, however, and Kienitz acknowledged that the path toward those lofty goals is a little complicated. But he did give some hints about what the administration’s thinking. He said U.S. DOT is trying to foster a financing system that does a better job of matching the project to the need:

Some places they propose a transit investment, in some places we have to rebuild the bridges that already exist but configure it differently, whether it’s for bicycles, pedestrians, cars, or transit. Other places we need to invest in highway capacity – but that should be case by case. [emphasis added]

Kienitz also stood up for allocating funds without the constraint of formulas based on different modes of travel: “Right now… a highway dollar is only a highway dollar, and a transit dollar is only a transit dollar.” He said a project like Los Angeles’ ambitious transit expansion requires more money with more flexibility.

So he’s beating the drum for higher funding levels, and for finding a way to pay for it, and for doing it soon. “Given the economic situation right now,” he said, “it seems appropriate to frontload a significant share of that money, and we have suggested the first $50 billion to be made available as soon as possible.”

But “as soon as possible” looks to be at least four months away. Congress is already itching to get out of town, and leadership could adjourn the session as soon as tomorrow night. A lame-duck session after the election will deal with tax cut extensions and some other urgent matters. Big new initiatives like these will have to wait until the new Congress gets sworn in — one that will have a much different look if Republicans make the gains they’re hoping to make.

Categories
Federal Policy Transportation Funding US DOT

Demand for TIGER II Funding Overwhelms Supply

DOT 177-10
Friday, September 24, 2010
Contact:  Olivia Alair
Tel.:  202-366-4570

Demand for TIGER II Funding Overwhelms Supply

Nearly 1,000 construction grant applications for more than $19 billion from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia far exceeded the $600 million in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) II dollars the U.S. Department of Transportation can award for infrastructure projects ranging from highways and bridges to transit and ports, Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.  The announcement followed the August deadline for submissions.

The overwhelming demand for TIGER II grants continues a trend. Last February 17, the Department announced 51 grant awards from nearly 1,500 applications for TIGER I grants nationwide. The TIGER I requests were for almost $60 billion worth of projects, 40 times the $1.5 billion available under that program.

“The wave of applications for both TIGER II and TIGER I dollars shows the back-log of needed infrastructure improvements and the desire for more flexible funds,” said Secretary LaHood.  “This also shows the opportunities still before us to create jobs, to reduce congestion, make wise environmental choices and help generate lasting economic growth.”

The $600 million in TIGER II grants is for capital investment in surface transportation projects. Up to $35 million can be used for planning grants. The Department of Transportation has partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to offer TIGER II planning grants along with HUD’s $40 million in Community Challenge Planning Grants.  Almost 700 applications were received for DOT or HUD planning grants.  HUD’s funds can be used for localized planning efforts, such as development around a transit stop and zone or building code updates and improvements.  Combining these funds will provide applicants with one-stop shopping and greater consistency for community development projects that include both transportation and housing or economic development components.  The two Departments, along with assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will participate in the evaluation of the planning grant applications.

TIGER II grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area.  The projects sought are those that contribute to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improve the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, increase energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and/or enhance the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections.

The Department will also give priority to projects that are expected to create and preserve jobs quickly and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity.
The Federal Register notice can be accessed at http://www.dot.gov/docs/TIGER_II_Discretionary_Grant_Program_Final_Notice_1_June_2010.pdf.

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Categories
Federal Policy NewsFlash Transportation Funding US DOT

Obama’s Labor Day Announcement: $50 Billion in Transportation Infrastructure

From The Hill:

Obama wants $50B to beef up infrastructure ‘as soon as possible’

By Darren Goode – 09/06/10 03:10 PM ET

President Obama on Monday called for an upfront investment of $50 billion to improve roads, railways and runways as part of a larger six-year strategy to update the nation’s aging infrastructure.

Obama announced the strategy at the Milwaukee Laborfest in Wisconsin hosted by the AFL-CIO and Milwaukee Area Labor Council and was joined by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The president wants Congress to approve this first-year $50 billion “as soon as possible” and pay for it by scaling back oil and gas industry tax incentives, a senior administration official said.

“Over the next six years, we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads — enough to circle the world six times,” Obama said, according to remarks prepared for delivery the White House released ahead of his speech Monday afternoon. “We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways — enough to stretch coast-to-coast.

“We’re going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next generation air-traffic control system to reduce travel time and delays for American travelers — something I think folks across the political spectrum could agree on.”

The plan will be fully paid for and “sets up an Infrastructure Bank to leverage federal dollars and focus on the smartest investments,” Obama said. It will include federal investments in high-speed rail and “will cut waste and bureaucracy” by consolidating and collapsing more than 100 federal transportation programs, he added.

It will also aim to reform “the haphazard and patchwork way we fund and maintain our infrastructure to focus less on wasteful earmarks and outdated formulas, and more on competition and innovation that gives us the best bang for the buck,” according to Obama’s prepared remarks.

The administration is coming off a disappointing 9.6 percent unemployment rate announced by the Labor Department on Friday, and the message to the union crowd was directly tied to the key concern of jobs.

One administration official stressed to reporters Monday that the infrastructure investment strategy “is not a stimulus, immediate jobs plan” but rather a front-loaded six-year strategy. Administration officials did not have a specific job creation goal for the investment or an overall six-year dollar figure. The $50 billion would be “a significant portion” of the overall six-year investment, a senior administration official said. The White House is also proposing a “robust investment” in modernizing the air traffic control system, saying improvements would cut down on travel delays.

Surface transportation investment bills — after a struggle over the overall dollar amount — usually receive broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill as lawmakers in both parties claim coveted earmarked dollars for their states and districts.

Obama promised the proposal “will not only create jobs now, but will make our economy run better over the long haul.”

“It’s a plan that history tells us we can and should attract bipartisan support,” Obama said.

And that’s where the bipartisanship stopped.

Obama bashed Republicans for opposing other economic efforts by the administration. “Even where we usually agree, they say no,” Obama said of the GOP. “They think it’s better to score political points before an election than actually solve problems.”

“These are the folks whose policies helped devastate our middle class and drive our economy into a ditch. And now they’re asking you for the keys back,” Obama added. “Do you want to give them the keys back? Me neither. And do you know why? Because they don’t know how to drive! At a time when we’re just getting out of the ditch, they’d pop it in reverse, let the special interests ride shotgun, and hit the gas, careening right back into that ditch.”

It is the first time that Obama has specifically begun to outline his strategy for a new six-year surface transportation plan, nearly a year after the last congressional strategy expired.

Obama did include infrastructure investment in high-speed rail and other infrastructure spending in last year’s economic stimulus plan. “The president has been ambitious to date in the area of investment,” a senior administration official said on a conference call with reporters. “And this is the continuation of that investment.”

Congress has a history of taking longer than intended to update transportation policy. Lawmakers had to extend surface transportation law for almost two years before approving the last surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2005. That bill expired in September last year and will likely continue to be extended into next year.

Congress has also had trouble approving a new Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization plan and has had to extend current FAA law 15 times so far since it expired more than two years ago.

Administration officials are “going to immediately start our discussions with both parties in Congress,” a senior official said. But the administration official declined to “make a prediction about timing” for when the upfront investment or full six-year plan would be set into law and said it “could all be in one bill or this could end up being divided up.” Full authorization plans, the official said, could “take quite a while and we’re mindful of that.”

Obama’s announcement Monday precedes a speech promoting business tax relief he will make  Wednesday near Cleveland. This is expected to include expanding a research and development tax credit by about 20 percent, or $100 billion, over the next 10 years, simplifying it and making the credit permanent.

The president’s twin bill announcement of infrastructure spending and business tax relief are popular ideas in both political parties heading into the fall midterm election season.

But Obama will continue to run into opposition from many Republicans and oil-state Democrats by following recommendations outlined in his earlier budget proposal to scale back oil and gas industry tax incentives. This includes not allowing oil and gas companies to take advantage of a manufacturing tax credit other industries are allowed to use. He would also aim to pay for the initial $50 billion infrastructure investment by not allowing oil and gas companies to reduce the tax deduction companies can claim on foreign-earned income.

Democrats have sought to include these revenue raisers to pay for multiple legislative proposals – including a set of so-called “tax extenders” and to pay for renewable energy investments.

Categories
Federal Policy Local Government Metropolitan Planning NewsFlash Transportation Funding

US Senate to Consider the Livable Communities Act: $2.2 Billion for Local / Regional Planning

The Obama Administration has recognized the need for coordinated land use and transportation planning by creating the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities to connect federal housing, transportation, and environmental decisions.

This fall, the U.S. Senate will take up the Livable Communities Act (S. 1619, Dodd-CT), which would strengthen and increase funding for the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities.  Not only would the Livable Communities Act make the Partnership permanent under law, but it would also fund planning grants to help communities do better planning to coordinate land use and transportation for the future.

Already, the Sustainable Communities Initiative has committed $100 million for planning grants in 2010 – but the Livable Communities Act would increase that funding to $2.2 BILLION over three years.  California’s cities, counties and regions could use these grants for Sustainable Communities Strategies planning and other efforts to revive our economy, lower greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health and safety, protect open spaces and farmland, and build vibrant city centers.

The Livable Communities Act was approved by a key committee in August, and the momentum is building to see this bill become a law by year’s end.

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California Policy Education/Webinars Public Transit Transportation Funding

California’s Proposition 22 — What it Means for Public Transit

Summary provided by “Yes on 22: Save Local Services

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The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act of 2010 would protect public transportation funding in the following ways:

  • Strengthens the status of the Public Transportation Account (PTA) as a trust fund.
  • Prohibits the practice of loaning or transferring PTA funds to the General Fund, and prohibits borrowing or using the money in the PTAfor any purposes other than “transportation planning” and “mass transportation,” as defined.
  • Defines mass transportation as surface transportation, operated by bus, rail, ferry, etc; generally for which a fare is charged; and provided by any transit district, joint powers authority, or other agencies that already receive funds for these purposes. School buses are not included under this definition.
  • Requires that the sales tax on diesel fuel, the only remaining core revenue source historically flowing into the PTA, shall be deposited quarterly into the PTA. It also requires that PTA revenue be continuously appropriated. This revenue sources has produced an average of $350 million per year since 2007-08. As part of the “gas tax swap” package, the Legislature raised the rate of sales tax on diesel starting in 2011-12. The Department of Finance estimates this source should generate $431 million in 2011-12.
  • Requires half these core PTA revenues to be spent on the State Transit Assistance (STA) Program – which can fund either transit operations or transit capital projects, and requires the other half of these core revenues to be spent on the historic state, regional and local transit purposes funded in the budget, such as the intercity rail program, or transit capital projects in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and Interregional Transportation Improvement Program (ITIP).
  • Strengthens the status of local transportation funds as trust funds. Prohibits the legislature from reducing, diverting, transferring, appropriating, or using the one-quarter cent county sales tax that is deposited into local transportation funds for any purposes other than the historic public transit and streets & roads purposes. This local revenue source, which was created by the Transportation Development Act (TDA) of 1971, generates about $1.4 billion annually.
  • Prohibits the legislature from interfering in any way with locally imposed taxes, including half-cent sales taxes dedicated to transit and transportation purposes. This means the state can’t use the proceeds, reallocate them to some other agency, restrict how a local government uses the proceeds, or borrow them.
  • If approved by the voters, this ballot measure would protect nearly $1.8 billion per year in PTA and TDA funding for public transportation (and not counting local ballot measure sources of transit funding).
Categories
GHG Reduction Metropolitan Planning NewsFlash Transportation Funding

MTC Awards $44 Million in New Grants to Promote Livable Communities

22 Bay Area Projects Selected

Contacts:
Doug Johnson – 510.817.5846
John Goodwin – 510.817.5862

OAKLAND, CA, July 29, 2010 : This week, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) approved 22 new capital grants totaling $44 million through its Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) program to finance pedestrian, bicycle and streetscape improvements near public transit in cities around the Bay Area. The purpose of TLC is to support community-based transportation projects that bring new vibrancy to downtown areas, commercial cores, neighborhoods and transit corridors, making them places where people want to live, work and visit. Pedestrian- and transit-friendly developments are hallmarks of the program.

The TLC Program also supports the region’s FOCUS Program by investing in Priority Development Areas (PDAs), designated areas in which there is local commitment to developing housing, along with amenities and services, to meet the day-to-day needs of residents in a pedestrian-friendly environment served by transit. To help reward the 60 Bay Area jurisdictions that applied for a portion of their city to be designated a PDA, eligibility for the TLC grants was for the first time limited to projects located in PDAs. A local match of 20 percent is required and the maximum grant award is $6 million.

“The TLC program is a concrete way of expanding transportation choices while also making our neighborhoods more environmentally sustainable and attractive places to live and work,” explained Solano County Supervisor and MTC Commissioner Jim Spering, who chairs MTC’s Planning Committee. “Whether in downtown areas or in other neighborhoods, TLC projects help build a sense of community by making it easier and more inviting for residents to use public transit, walk or bicycle. The streetscape enhancements and pedestrian/bicycle access improvements built with this money will pay immediate dividends in terms of quality of life and public health.”

The 22 projects approved for funding today are being developed by community groups and local authorities throughout the region, including the three largest cities of San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland, and 14 other cities (Berkeley, San Leandro, Hayward, Richmond, Alameda, Union City, San Carlos, Concord, Livermore, Hercules, Vallejo, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Cotati). These projects were selected from a pool of 33 projects, requesting $80 million in funds. Applications were received from seven of the nine Bay Area counties. Marin and Napa counties did not apply for funding in this cycle. View a list of the 22 projects awarded capital grants at http://www.mtc.ca.gov/news/press_releases/TLCgrantlist2010.pdf.

Since the TLC program’s inception in 1998, about $200 million has been invested to help provide better linkages between housing and public transit. TLC provides funding for projects that provide for a range of transportation choices, support connectivity between transportation investments and land uses, and are developed through an inclusive community planning effort.

Informational materials explaining the TLC programand project application procedures are available through the MTC-ABAG Library by e-mail (library@mtc.ca.gov), fax (510.817.5852) or telephone (510.817.5836). Information about the program also may be found on the MTC website atwww.mtc.ca.gov/planning/smart_growth/index.htm.

MTC is the transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Categories
Federal Policy Transportation Funding US DOT US HUD

THUD Bill Includes Funding for Livability Initiatives

Appropriations: House and Senate Appropriations Reports FY11 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Bill

On July 20, the House Appropriations Committee marked up its bill making FY 2011 appropriations for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. On July 21, 2010, the Senate Appropriations committee approved its FY 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. Overall, the bill includes budget authority of $67.9 billion, unchanged from the 2010 enacted level.

Significant Items Include:

Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Sustainable Communities Initiative: $150 million within HUD’s Community Development Fund to promote integrated housing and transportation planning.  [note: TIGER III]

Department of Transportation

  • Livable Communities: $150 million within HUD and $527 million within DOT.
  • Planning Capacity Grants: $200 million split evenly between the Federal Transit and Highway Administrations to help transportation planning agencies improve their models and better coordinate transportation and housing forecasts.
  • Transit Energy Efficiency Grants: $100 million for grants to help transit agencies make cutting-edge and innovative capital investments that will reduce the energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions of their operations.
  • $45.2 billion for highway infrastructure
  • $11.3 billion to support bus and rail projects, including capital expenditures
  • $250 million for transit operating assistance grants
  • Passenger Rail Grant Program: $1.4 billion to expand and improve intercity passenger rail
  • Amtrak: $1.77 billion to make capital investments including improvements to Amtrak’s fleet and upgrades to Amtrak stations to ensure they are accessible for the disabled. This increase above FY 2010 will save or create an additional 1,130 jobs, according to the Committee.

For more information, visit: http://appropriations.house.gov or http://www.appropriations.senate.gov

Categories
Federal Policy Transportation Funding

DC Streetsblog: Livable Communities Act Clears Senate Committee

Livable Communities Act Clears Senate Committee

by Ben Fried on August 4, 2010

The Senate Banking Committee voted 12-10 yesterday in favor of the Livable Communities Act, legislation that would bolster the Obama administration’s initiatives to link together transportation, housing, economic development, and environmental policy.

donovan_lahood_jackson.jpg

Shaun Donovan, Ray LaHood, Lisa Jackson: Together forever? The Livable Communities Act would codify the partnership between HUD, US DOT, and the EPA. Photo: EPA

The administration has been taking steps since last March to coordinate between the Department of Transportation, HUD, and the EPA. This bill, carried in the Senate by Connecticut’s Chris Dodd, would formalize those partnerships and authorize substantially more funding to work with.

Most of the action would flow through HUD. This year the agency is funding $150 million in grants supporting regional efforts to improve access to transit and promote walkable development. The Livable Communities Act promises to scale up that program significantly, creating a new office within HUD, called the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, that will distribute about $4 billion through competitive grants.

The initial round of grants would fund comprehensive plans — local initiatives to shape growth by coordinating housing, transportation, and economic development policies. Most of the funding — $3.75 billion — would be distributed over three years to implement projects identified in such plans.

While some Senators from rural states had expressed skepticism about the benefits of the bill for their constituents, yesterday’s vote split strictly along party lines, with Democrats Jon Tester of Montana and Tim Johnson of South Dakota both voting in favor.

To make the case for the bill to his rural and Republican counterparts, Dodd singled out Envision Utah, a campaign that has built public support for smart growth policies in one of the country’s reddest states. Not a single GOP Senator voted for the bill, however, even Utah’s Bob Bennett, who told UPI, “I think the overall philosophy is wise, but I will be voting against it.”

Some of the strongest backing for the bill has come from AARP, which sent a letter to committee members on Monday pointing out that the country’s aging population will be poorly served if development patterns don’t evolve to make driving less necessary. “Nine out of ten of our members tell us they want to stay in their own homes as they age — most are living in suburban or rural areas and don’t have access to public transportation,” said Debra Alvarez, senior legislative representative for AARP. “There’s a lot of things that can be done in small towns: co-locating things like post offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, and putting housing there too.”

Advocates for transportation reform are now looking at the path forward for the bill. “We applaud the Committee for taking this major step forward on behalf of communities both small and large, and for American families looking for affordable homes in healthy neighborhoods with reliable transportation options,” said Transportation for America director James Corless in a statement. “We urge the full Senate to follow their lead and give final passage.”

Dodd has vowed to shepherd the Livable Communities Act through to become law before he retires in January. With Congress about to adjourn until September 13, he’ll face a tight time frame. In addition to awaiting a vote in the full Senate, the bill has yet to clear a committee vote in the House, where Colorado representative Ed Perlmutter is the sponsor.

Categories
California Policy NewsFlash Transportation Funding

Strategic Growth Council Presentation on Prop 84 Grant Program

The Strategic Growth Council has now posted on its website (www.sgc.ca.gov) a PowerPoint presentation given at the Technical Assistance Workshops on the Sustainable Communities Planning Grants Program. It is also attached to this email.

Power Point Presentation at this link:

http://officeofrustyselix.org/CALCOG/Planning_Grant_Power_Point_(July_27_2010)1.pdf

Categories
Public Transit Transportation Funding US DOT

FTA Study: $77.7 Billion Needed to Bring Nation’s Rail and Bus Transit Systems into ‘State of Good Repair’

FTA 22-10
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Contact: Paul Griffo
Tel: 202-366-4064

FTA Study: $77.7 Billion Needed to Bring Nation’s Rail and Bus Transit Systems into ‘State of Good Repair’
2010 Review Expands Upon Earlier Survey; Provides More Complete Assessment of Repair Backlog of Nation’s Transit Systems

A Federal Transit Administration (FTA) study released today estimates the cost of bringing the nation’s rail and bus transit systems into a state of good repair at $77.7 billion.  In addition, a yearly average of $14.4 billion would be required to maintain the systems.

FTA’s National State of Good Repair Assessment Study, requested by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as a follow-up to the 2009 Rail Modernization Study report to Congress, provides a comprehensive analysis of the costs required to bring the nation’s rail and bus transit systems into good operating order.  The 2010 study released today is based on data provided by 36 additional rail and bus operators in both rural and urban areas.

“Transit remains one of the safest forms of transportation, but this report shows the clear need to reinvest in our bus, subway and light rail systems,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “As a nation, we must lead when it comes to infrastructure development and commit ourselves to rebuilding America.”

“Investment in the nation’s transit infrastructure is important to a healthy economy and most importantly, the safety and well-being of our riders,” stated Administrator Peter Rogoff. “For millions of Americans, having a safe and reliable transit system is the difference between seeing their children before bed or not, making it to work on time or arriving late, or getting to a doctor’s appointment or forgoing it.”

While most of the $77.7 billion backlog can be attributed to rail, more than 40 percent of the nation’s buses are also in poor to marginal condition.
“State of Good Repair” for the country’s transportation network is one of the five system-wide goals included in Secretary LaHood’s proposed Strategic Plan for the Department of Transportation.   The assessment is available online at http://www.fta.dot.gov/news/news_events_11865.html .

In April, Administrator Rogoff announced the availability of $775 million through a competitive State of Good Repair funding program that will invest in the nation’s bus and bus facilities.  A review of transit agency project applications is now underway at FTA and will be announced later this year.

The FTA has received approximately 400 project applications and more than $4.2 billion in requests for the $775 million.

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