June 5, 2015
Obama Threatens Veto of House THUD Appropriations Bill

This week, the House of Representatives began consideration of the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD), but adjourned for the weekend before completing work on the bill.

While the bill maintained spending levels for core public transit formula programs, many other programs funded from the General Fund saw significant cuts. Due to top-line spending cap levels, FTA capital investment grants and transit research, as well as TIGER grants and FRA funding for Amtrak, were among the accounts reduced below currently enacted funding levels.

When the House returns next week, it is expected to complete consideration of amendments to the bill and vote on final passage. Details of the House consideration can be found in APTA's latest Legislative Alert.

In a statement released June 1, President Obama threatened to veto the bill in its current House form, saying it "freezes or cuts critical investment in transportation that creates jobs, helps to grow the economy and improves America's roads, bridges, transit infrastructure and aviation systems, benefiting towns and cities across the United States." The full statement is available here.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies has not yet moved the bill. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has stated that he is prepared to block all Republican appropriations bills in an effort to raise spending caps set in 2011.

» Chapel Hill Transit has openings for maintenance manager, transit, and operations manager, fixed route. [More]
» The Central Contra Costa Transit Authority seeks a manager of safety and training. [More]
» The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners are soliciting proposals for transit system operation and maintenance services. [More]
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Feinberg's Nomination Sent to Senate

On May 29, President Obama announced his plans to nominate FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg to that position on a permanent basis, succeeding Joseph C. Szabo. He submitted the nomination to the Senate on June 1.

“Throughout [Feinberg's] time at DOT, she has been immersed in issues related to rail safety," DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "Her attention to detail and passion for the work continues to impress not just me but safety experts, members of Congress and the staff at FRA. FRA will benefit from her ability to cut red tape and get things done."

Feinberg has served as FRA deputy administrator and acting administrator since January 2015. She was DOT chief of staff from 2013 to 2014 and was special assistant to the president and senior advisor to the chief of staff at the White House from 2008-2010. Feinberg also has worked for Facebook, Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Government.

In related news, Feinberg and FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan will address the June 22 General Session, "A Dialogue with USDOT," during the APTA Rail Conference in Salt Lake City.

House T&I Committee Holds Hearing on Amtrak Derailment

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing June 2 on oversight of the May 12 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia. Witnesses were FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman, NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart and Dennis Pierce, national president, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. To view the hearing, click here.

Sales Tax Vote Fails in Sonoma County, CA

On June 2, voters in Sonoma County, CA, defeated a five-year, quarter-cent increase in the county sales tax by a margin of 37 percent in favor and 63 percent opposed. Had the measure passed, the funds raised by the tax increase would have been invested in infrastructure and road improvements.

Vote counting for a June 2 property owners’ assessment election in Sacramento was not complete as Passenger Transport Express went to press. If this measure passes, downtown residents will vote on establishing a streetcar funding district.


Make plans now to participate in the APTA Transit Board Members & Board Support Seminar, July 18-21 in Denver. Professional development sessions will focus on best practices in governance and innovative solutions to create policy for public transportation systems. Register here.


NPR quoted APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and Metra President Donald Orseno in a report on the status of PTC installation by U.S. rail systems, focusing on the fact that many of the nation's commuter rail systems will not be able to meet the year-end federal deadline for installing the technology.

In a letter to the Peoria Journal-Star, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called on members of Congress to pass a long-term surface transportation authorization bill, saying, "Investing in America’s infrastructure is part of what has made our country great. It has created generations of jobs. Without congressional action, funding to states and mass transit agencies across the country will stop, seriously jeopardizing projects and jobs in Illinois and across the country. ... If we are to be a great nation and leader in the world economy, we need a world-class infrastructure. Let’s get down to business."

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority recently was honored at a ceremony held by Smart Business Magazine to recognize the "Smart 50"--the region's 50 smartest businesses.

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