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Federal Policy NewsFlash Transportation Funding

Streetsblog DC: TIGER III Is Grrrrrr-eat News for Transportation Agencies

TIGER III Is Grrrrrr-eat News for Transportation Agencies
by Tanya Snyder on April 21, 2011

News about an upcoming TIGER III award program is beginning to leak out. The USDOT isn’t planning to release a solicitation for proposals until early summer, but the language in the recently-passed budget bill for this year gives some clues as to what we can expect.

TIGER’s survival was one of the happiest surprises of the FY2011 budget. No money from the 2010 TIGER II allocation was rescinded, a pleasant surprise for TIGER fans. And the appropriation for 2011 is just 12 percent lower than the $600 million allocated last year. Part of what was cut, however, was $35 million to help jurisdictions with “planning, preparation or design” of projects. TIGER III will all be for capital investments. Like TIGER II, applicants will have to provide at least 20 percent of the funding, with no more than 80 percent coming from TIGER. A higher match is encouraged. Also like TIGER II, the money won’t be distributed purely on merit but also taking geographical diversity into account.

USDOT is required by statute to wait 60 days after the appropriation to put out the Notice of Funding Availability and then 120 days after that to start accepting applications. The budget was signed into law April 15, meaning we can expect a call for applications no sooner than mid-June, with the first day to actually apply being sometime in mid-October.

The program also might not be called “TIGER,” according to Ron Kirby, director of transportation planning for the Metropolitan Washington Council on Governments. In the budget, it’s referred to as “National Infrastructure Investments,” and when Kirby asked USDOT staff whether that’s what the program would be called, they said that was a decision that was going to be made “on high.”

More than 120 TIGER grants have gone to improving transportation options and land use all across the country – projects like the St. Paul Union Depot Multi-Modal Transportation Hub to bring Amtrak, intercity and local buses, light rail, taxis, and bikes together under one roof in the heart of downtown; the Philadelphia Area Pedestrian and Bicycle Network to complete a 128-mile network of bike/ped facilities, including primary commuter routes; the New Haven Downtown Crossing to convert Route 34 from a limited access highway to urban boulevards; the New Orleans Streetcar-Union Passenger Terminal/Loyola Loop to provide transportation options in the central business district and link to the Amtrak terminal; and the Tower 55 Multi-Modal Improvement to alleviate a major traffic and rail bottleneck and improve safety in Fort Worth, Texas by adding an additional rail track.

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NewsFlash

Streetsblog DC: $100 Million for HUD Sustainability Program Survives in This Year’s Budget

$100 Million for HUD Sustainability Program Survives in This Year’s Budget
by Tanya Snyder on April 18, 2011

With multiple versions of two years’ worth of federal budgets flying around, some details are still emerging about what’s in and what’s out. At the end of last week we heard that the FY2011 budget, which has been sent to the president for his signature, includes $100 million for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. According to HUD Sustainable Communities Director Shelley Poticha, the partnership was allocated $70 million for regional planning grants ($17.5 million is slated for regions with populations of less than 500,000) and $30 million for Community Challenge planning grants.

That’s still a significant reduction from the $150 million the partnership had last year, but in this time of shrinking budgets, it’s a lot more than some livability advocates feared. If the Sustainable Communities program had been killed in this budget, it would have been all the more difficult to revive it for inclusion in the upcoming reauthorization of the transportation bill.

The president wants to keep the partnership going, and indeed, within the administration and among reformers, the funding for the partnership is seen as a money-saver, consolidating duplicative agency programs, cutting through red tape, and using outcome-based metrics to identify and fund effective projects. Still, it’s an administration program labeled “livability” and was, therefore, extremely vulnerable to the GOP ax.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is the name for the coordination among DOT, EPA, and HUD to promote planning and infrastructure investment according to their six tenets of livability: transportation choices, affordable housing, economic competitiveness, support for existing communities, coordination of federal policies and investing in healthy communities. The two planning grant programs, which are funded and managed out of HUD, are a centerpiece of the entire partnership. The other main part of it, TIGER, is run through the DOT and also saw the bulk of its funding — the lion’s share of TIGER, if you will – preserved (perhaps somewhat surprisingly, in the current budget bill), suffering only a 12 percent cut.

Meanwhile, transit capital funding (the FTA’s New Starts program) was reduced by about a quarter, high-speed rail was zeroed out completely, Amtrak took about a 10 percent hit, and TIGGER (a greenhouse gas reduction program for transit) got cut from $75 million to $50 million.
State and local recipients of partnership grants deserve much of the credit for keeping these programs alive. They made a powerful case to their members of Congress for the necessity of continuing the grants. According to Geoff Anderson of Smart Growth America, more than 60 national organizations signed a public letter to members of Congress in support of the partnership’s programs, and over 150 state and local organizations sent letters to Congress voicing their support as well.
Of course, with this round of the budget fight over, it’s time to regroup for the next one, starting now. “Congress will decide budget provisions for 2012 in the coming weeks and funding for the Partnership will once again be at great risk,” Anderson said. Indeed, the lines are drawn. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) is pushing for his brand of deep and painful cuts, the Democrats have released an outline of a gentler budget, and the president released his budget proposal, only to get behind a deficit reduction plan last week which would amend his previous budget.

Another notable aspect of the FY2011 budget passed (at long last) by Congress: It contains no earmarks. And as if it were trying to exorcise the ghost of earmarks past, it even cancels previously allocated transportation earmarks that hadn’t been spent. That’s a big shift for a legislature that used to be addicted to pork as members’ way to prove their worth to constituents before re-election time. Still, there are some good programs out there that historically get funded through earmarks, and their future in an earmark-free world is uncertain. Biking and walking paths, some transit projects, Safe Routes to School and the Job Access and Reverse Commute program to provide transportation to work for low-income people are just some member-designated projects that may not have received adequate funding if it weren’t for earmarks, since they’re often ignored by state DOTs.

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California Policy GHG Reduction Local Government Metropolitan Planning Public Health

California 2011-12 Legislative Session Overview of Relevant Sustainable Development Bills

Policy in Motion is tracking a handful of bills introduced this session pertaining to the integration of land use, transportation, housing affordability, and health within the context of sustainable community development in California. Below are summaries and links to legislative analyses for 21 relevant bills:

Updated April 24th, 2011

AB 147 (Dickinson)Subdivision Map Act

  • Expands the existing eligible uses for transportation mitigation impact fees to transit, bike and pedestrian facilities.

AB 343 (Atkins)Community Redevelopment Act

  • Redevelopment Plans and subsequent projects to be in alignment with climate, air quality and energy conservation goals of Chapter 728 of the Statutes of 2008.

AB 345 (Atkins)Caltrans to consult with bike/pedestrian reps on traffic control devices.

  • Caltrans to convene an advisory committee of representatives from groups representing bicycle and pedestrian users of streets, roads and highways and consult with this group regarding the installation of traffic control barriers and/or devices.

AB 441 (Monning)Health issues included in transportation plans.

  • Requires the California Transportation Commission to include health issues in regional transportation plans. The Office of Planning and Research would develop guidelines for local government and regional agencies to incorporate health (improvement) issues into general plans.

AB 539 (Williams)Safe Routes to School speed limits.

AB 605 (Dickinson) – OPR to set standards for VMT reductions and CEQA exemptions.

  • A project could be exempt from CEQA analysis of transportation element if project met percentage reduction in vehicle trip miles.

AB 650 (Blumenfield)Blue Ribbon Task Force on Public Transportation for the 21st Century

  • Requires task force to be comprised of twelve transportation subject matter experts to prepare a written report which would include findings and recommendations regarding the current state of CA’s transit system, costs of creating the needed system, and potential funding sources.

AB 676 (Torres)Expands use of transportation funds.

  • Existing transportation expenditures are currently legally obligated for transportation related administration, operation, maintenance, local assistance, safety and rehabilitation projects. This bill would allocate remaining funds for the study of, and development and implementation of,capital improvement projects to be programmed in the state transportation improvement program.

AB 710 (Skinner)Infill Development and Sustainable Community Act of 2011.

  • Eliminates minimum parking requirements for infill and transit-oriented development. Prohibits city or county from requiring more than one parking space per residential unit and prohibits requirement of more than one parking space per 1,000 sq. ft of commercial units for residential or mixed-use project in a transit intensive area. Also modifies definition of sustainable communities to include communities that incentivize infill development.

AB 819 (Wieckowski)Enhance bicycle safety, complete streets.

  • This bill augments existing Dept. of Transportation responsibility for safety guidelines to include class IV bikeways, in addition to class I, II and III bikeways. The bill defines class IV bikeways as: “segregated bike lanes,” which provide a completely separated right-of-way designated for the exclusive use of bicycles on streets and are demarcated by either a physical barrier or by distinct paint markings, or both, to minimize or prevent travel by motor vehicles.

AB 931 (Dickinson)CEQA exemption rule for infill housing modification.

  • CEQA requirements are exempted for infill development if certain criteria are met. This bill would extend the current criteria for the preparation of a community-level environmental review from 5 to 20 years. It would also lower the density requirement for exemption from 20 to 15 units per acre.

AB 995 (Cedillo)OPR report to legislatureon expediting Transit Oriented Development environmental review.

  • This bill would require the Office of Planning and Research, not later than July 1, 2012, to prepare and submit to the Legislature a report containing recommendations for expedited environmental review for transit-oriented development.

AB 1285 (Fuentes)Regional greenhouse gas emission reduction program.

  • Legislation to create community greenhouse gas emission reduction program. Would provide state oversight over local government and nonprofit investments relating to greenhouse gasses.

SB 77 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review)Elimination of state redevelopment agencies.

  • Elimination of state redevelopment agencies (RDAs) and an orderly “wind down” of their responsibilities and assets. Local govt successor agencies would be created to maintain certain existing RDA obligations. Elimination of state RDA’s has been identified as a method to balance the state’s budget. Property taxes that formerly went to RDAs would be directed to schools and public safety operations. The bill will result in $1.7 billion in additional funding for the 2011-2012 budget.

SB 132 (Lowenthal)School citings to reflect state planning priorities.

  • This bill would require the State Allocation Board to revise guidelines, rules, regulations, procedures, and policiesfor the acquisition of schoolsites and the construction of school facilities to reflect the state planning. This bill would also require that advice, standards, surveys, or information regarding the acquisition of school sites or the construction of school facilities provided by the StateDepartment of Education pursuant to this requirement reflect the state planning priorities.

SB 214 (Wolk)Eliminate voter approval requirement for infrastructure finance districts.

  • This bill would eliminate the requirement of voter approval to create and authorize an infrastructure financing district. This bill would authorize a legislative body to create an infrastructure finance district, adopt an infrastructure financing plan, and issue bonds by resolutions by resolution, not requiring voter approval.

SB 310 (Hancock).–.Creation of the Transit Priority Project Program.

  • This bill would eliminate the requirement of voter approval for the creation of an infrastructure financing district and would authorize the appropriate legislative body to create the district, adopt the plan, and issue the bonds by resolutions. This bill would also create a streamlined permit process for development that met certain criteria and it would create a program to reimburse developer fees if a project was located within an Infrastructure Finance District.

SB 450 (Lowenthal)Redevelopment agencies housing expenditures.

  • This bill reforms how redevelopment agencies spend their Low &Moderate Income Housing Funds.

SB 468 (Kehoe).–.An act to add Section 103 to the Streets and Highways Code, relating to transportation.

  • This bill would impose additional requirements on the departmentwith respect to proposed capacity-increasing state highway projects inthe coastal zone, including requiring the department to collaborate withlocal agencies, the California Coastal Commission, and countywide orregional transportation planning agencies to develop traffic congestionreduction goals.

SB 535 (De Leon)California Communities Healthy Air Revitalization Trust.

  • This bill would require a minimum of 10% of revenues generated from fees collected by the Air Resources Board from sources of greenhouse gas emissions would be deposited into a trust operated by the CA Treasury Dept. Funds would be in used in communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to mitigate health or environmental impacts of climate change.

SB 907 (Evans and Perez) –.Master Plan for Infrastructure Financing and Development Commission

  • This bill would create the Master Plan for Infrastructure Financing and Development Commission, consisting of specified members, and would require the commission to prepare and submit a strategy and plan for infrastructure development in California that meets certain criteria to the Legislature and the Governor by December 1, 2013..
Categories
Federal Policy High-Speed Rail NewsFlash Transportation Funding US DOT

Reconnecting America: Federal Funding Compromise Preserves Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Reduces FTA New Starts, Eliminates Rail Programs

For Immediate Release
Contact Rebecca M. (Becky) Sullivan
Communications Director
(w) 202-429-6990, ext. 206
(c) 202-412-5573
bsullivan@reconnectingamerica.org
April 12, 2011

STATEMENT ON CONTINUING RESOLUTION
BY RECONNECTING AMERICA PRESIDENT & CEO JOHN ROBERT SMITH

(April 12, 2011) The recently announced compromise to fund the federal government through the remainder of FY2011 preserves several critical programs, but also raises cause for concern. Reconnecting America is pleased to see that the compromise continues to support the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which is effectively coordinating federal housing and transportation programs to provide the greatest benefits at the regional and local levels. Programs such as DOT’s TIGER grants and HUD’s Sustainable Communities grants will save taxpayer dollars over the long-term by helping communities make better investments today.

However, the reduction in the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts/Small Starts program and the complete elimination of the High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program in FY 2011 is a step in the wrong direction. In this era of $4-a-gallon gas, Americans need more transportation options, not fewer. In a report to be released tomorrow, Reconnecting America has found that the pent-up capital demand for fixed guideway transit, whose major federal source of funding is New Starts/Small Starts, is at least $233 billion and at current levels it would take 73 years to fund the backlog of transit projects being planned by communities all around America. (See graphic at right.)

These programs support communities’ efforts to connect people to jobs, to school, to health care. They are creating jobs today, and are helping to build a better future for our children and grandchildren. Reducing support for these programs is short-sighted and ultimately will set us back in our efforts to create stronger and more economically-resilient communities where Americans of all income ranges can afford to live, work, and play.

Reconnecting America’s work across the country has demonstrated the transformative power that investing in infrastructure can have on the economy, sustainability, and quality of life in our communities. Continued investment in transportation options is essential to allow our nation to realize its full potential.

# # #

Reconnecting America is a national nonprofit that is helping to transform promising ideas into thriving communities – where transportation choices make it easy to get from place to place, where businesses flourish, and where people from all walks of life can afford to live, work and visit. Reconnecting America is the managing partner of the Center for Transit-Oriented Development, the only national nonprofit effort funded by Congress to promote best practices in transit-oriented development. Reconnecting America is also a founding partner of Transportation for America, a broad coalition of housing, environmental, equal opportunity, public health, urban planning, transportation and other organizations focused on creating a 21st century national transportation program. For more information visit our website, www.reconnectingamerica.org