APTA | Passenger Transport
July 20, 2009

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Congress Takes Up Authorization Timeframe

As the Sept. 30 expiration date for SAFETEA-LU approaches, Congress began to focus on the upcoming transportation authorization legislation during the week of July 13, with the House and Senate considering different timeframes for passage. The Fiscal Year 2010 transportation appropriations bill was also taken up by a House subcommittee.

At a July 14 press event in the Capitol calling for quick action on the six-year authorization bill now being developed in the House, Reps. James L. Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I), and Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, were joined by Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH), ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).

The next day, EPW marked up a bill that provides an 18-month extension at the FY 2009 annualized rates, which is in keeping with the Obama Administration’s recommendation. “This legislation...is an authorization of about $41 billion in 2010 and another $20.5 billion in 2011,” said committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA). 

In calling for the immediate passage of the six-year bill, however, Oberstar, DeFazio, and Voinovich explained that only a longer-term authorization bill could sustain the ongoing and growing investment in surface transportation by allowing states and other funding recipients time to plan their long-term construction projects. Short-term extensions cause uncertainty and disrupt the planning process, they said, resulting in fewer projects, fewer jobs, and less economic growth.

Oberstar said: “An 18-month extension…will take four years to finish, not a year and a half,” he said. “Inertia becomes the enemy of progress. We are ready to move and we should move now.”

DeFazio termed the extension “short-sighted, unacceptable, and it will harm our economic recovery.” He continued: “Our six-year authorization bill will create or sustain double the amount of jobs as an extension. We cannot afford to walk away from one million jobs at a time when we are experiencing a struggling economy and high unemployment.”

APTA supports Oberstar’s effort to enact a long-term bill now, and urged Congress to make this a top priority and pass a long-term authorization bill as quickly as possible. “APTA does not want to see multiple short-term extensions as was the case with the SAFETEA-LU process...,” said APTA President William Millar, noting that enactment of a long-term bill is essential for planning and forecasting. APTA’s letter to Oberstar stating its support of the legislation is available here.

The House Science and Technology Committee has some jurisdiction over the research portion of the House version of the authorization bill, H.R. 2569, so its Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation planned to mark up the legislation, also on July 16, to authorize surface transportation research and development activities.

House Subcommittee OKs THUD Appropriations
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Related Agencies approved draft FY 2010 appropriations legislation July 13 that includes approximately $75.8 billion in net discretionary funding for U.S. DOT.

The appropriations in the Transportation and HUD, or THUD, bill include $10.48 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), $148 million above the level in President Obama’s proposed FY 2010 budget, and $4 billion for high-speed rail, a $3 billion increase over the administration’s request. Within this amount, $2 billion may be transferred to a national infrastructure bank if it is authorized. The increase in FTA funding refers to an additional $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, offset by a $2 million reduction for FTA Research and University Research Centers.

This bill “reflects the renaissance of passenger and commuter rail in the United States that was jump-started by the $8 billion provided for high-speed and intercity passenger rail in the [American] Recovery [and Reinvestment] Act,” said Rep. John W. Olver (D-MA), chairman of the subcommittee.

The full Appropriations Committee was expected to take up the THUD bill on July 17.

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