May 22, 2015
Senate Expected to Pass Short-Term Authorization this Weekend

This weekend, the Senate is expected to pass H.R. 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015.  The legislation, sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), would extend MAP-21 through July 31.  The current extension is set to expire on May 31, absent congressional action. 

H.R. 2353 passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday by a vote of 387-35-1.  On Thursday afternoon, members of the House held their last votes for the week and returned to their districts until June. The Senate, however, is working to finalize votes on the Trade Promotion Authority and an extension of the Patriot Act.  These two bills have pushed back the schedule of the Senate, delaying the vote for the extension before the Memorial Day recess.  However, Senate leaders have indicated that a vote on the extension will be among the last items on the Senate agenda before Memorial Day.

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Free Congress Foundation Releases Report on Devolution

On May 19, the Free Congress Foundation (FCF), a conservative public-policy think tank with which APTA has had a long association, released a report that makes the case that any devolution of federal transportation programs would contradict conservative principles. While devolution would reduce the federal fuel tax, it would inevitably produce tax increases at the state level, it states. 

The report, "The Case Against Transportation Devolution: A Conservative Perspective," underscores the harm that would come to America in any full or partial devolving of federal highway and public transit programs. The report further establishes a policy and constitutional basis for a continuing federal role in American transportation.

"We at the Free Congress Foundation recognize, as we always have, the connection between viable transportation networks and healthy economic growth. We must work together to address these challenges and remain competitive in the global marketplace," said James Gilmore, president and CEO of the foundation, and former governor of Virginia.

DOT Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy Peter Rogoff, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jack Schenendorf, the report's author and counsel with Covington & Burling and former long-serving top Republican staffer on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy also spoke at the event. 

The report concludes that devolution would inevitably result in less funding nationwide for highway and public transit projects than current federal law provides, as some states "would find it impossible to increase their gasoline taxes by enough to offset the loss of federal funds, while others would be unable to borrow or spend enough to complete major projects, and still others would be barred by the state constitution from spending the money they do have on transit."

To read the report click here.


Rail Conference

APTA's Rail Conference and International Rail Rodeo in Salt Lake City are right around the corner. Speakers at the Opening General Session June 22 include Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, president of the National League of Cities Board of Directors. Register here


New Help for the Visually Impaired? A research project at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh aims to incorporate robots and other technology into a system to help visually impaired people navigate public transit stations and other urban settings. See how here.

Public Transit Promotes Equality. A new book by Harvard University Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter draws a link between access to public transportation and upward economic mobility and other metrics of equality. Read this article about her book.

Sitting Pretty. What do 20 public transit-savvy teens do when their prom limo is a no show? They grab a seat on Boston’s MBTA Green Line in all their finery.

Transit in a Shoebox. A creative first grader created a diorama featuring Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) facts, figures, fare passes, maps and more. Nigel McDonald, a regular DART rider, completed the project as part of his elementary school’s 75th anniversary celebration.

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