March 29, 2010
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|COVERAGE OF 2010 LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE
A March 15 General Session featured Administrators Joseph C. Szabo of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Peter M. Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). APTA President William Millar presided over the session.
Rogoff addressed the successful obligation of 100 percent of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding by March 5, due, he said, in large part to the hard work of everyone at FTA.
Rogoff said FTA is continuing to enhance its livability agenda, with its $280 million urban circulator, streetcar, and bus grants now under review. “Congressman [John W.] Olver [(D-MA)] started the dialogue on this issue with HUD [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] and EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency] during the last administration, which gave us a great start to advance our agendas under new administration,” he said.
In addition, he noted “great strides” in New Starts, with $1.8 billion in six new Full Funding Grant Agreements to be done by the close of 2011. He also said that FTA will ask the industry and stakeholders for their best evaluation processes to streamline moving forward.
Another priority of DOT, said Rogoff, is ensuring that the nation’s transportation infrastructure reaches a state of good repair, “especially in the bus area.”
On authorization, he said the “big challenge is finding the $400 to $500 billion to fund a ‘robust reauthorization bill.’”
Szabo, a fifth-generation railroader who has worked as a yard switchman, road trainman, and conductor, said: “I still have my conductor’s hat and my ticket punch in my office. I never want to get too far away from those roots!”
He spoke on the National Rail Plan, which will be released this summer and will guide states in developing their own rail plans—particularly on safety, livability, and congestion reduction.
Szabo stressed FRA’s excitement about the role of high-speed rail and how it must “integrate seamlessly into commuter rail and transit” to create a truly balanced transportation system. “We envision the $8 billion [provided in ARRA] to be a down payment in a multi-decade partnership with states to improve existing passenger rail lines and create new ones that meet the needs of consumers,” he added.
Szabo discussed new funding opportunities: $50 million of 80/20 matching planning grants for intercity passenger rail and $65 million of 50/50 matching project grants.
He concluded by asking everyone to work together to “achieve America’s rail renaissance and to bring the president’s vision to reality.”