June 19, 2015
Bipartisan Passenger Rail Bill Introduced in Senate

Late June 18, Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bipartisan bill to authorize $9 billion for federal passenger rail programs over the next four years. The proposal, S. 1626—the Railroad Reform, Enhancement and Efficiency Act—provides $1.8 billion for Amtrak and state passenger rail grants over the levels included in recent House-passed legislation. Sponsors say it could go to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for a vote as early as next week. See a summary here and the full text here.

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Both Congressional Chambers Hold Hearings on HTF

Two committees of Congress—one in the House and one in the Senate—held hearings this week to explore ways to identify potential sources of additional revenue for the HTF, signaling that Congress is focusing on the critical issue of investing in surface transportation.

APTA submitted testimony to both hearings, one on June 17 held by the House Ways and Means Committee and the other on June 18 held by the Senate Finance Committee. In its testimony, APTA said that revenue to the Highway Trust Fund must increase by more than $90 billion in new revenues to support growing ridership.

"To ensure the reliable, long-term funding best suited to infrastructure investment, APTA urges Congress to enact a six-year, $100 billion authorization for the federal transit program that includes robust funding to grow the program from $10.7 billion in the current year to $22.2 billion in 2021," APTA's testimony states. APTA also asks that "Congress provide $50 billion over the next six years to facilitate the development of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail system."

“There has been no shortage of hearings, reports, conferences and discussions on the topic,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. “And nearly all of them conclude that a long-term bill is in the best interest of Americans and American business.”

“Some of us remember when America had the finest infrastructure in the world. That is no longer even remotely the case. America’s infrastructure, by any objective of international measure, has dropped precipitously," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) during the Ways and Means Committee hearing. “It doesn’t have to be this way. ... We have a unique alignment between business, labor, local government, professions, small business, truckers, AAA, bicyclists and transit. This is a coalition that’s broader and stronger at the local, state and federal level than any other issue."

Find APTA's testimony here.

CBO: HTF Shortfall Could Mean Reduced Payments by September

DOT may need to delay payments from the HTF to states before the end of Fiscal Year 2015 if it is to keep the fund solvent, said Joseph Kile, assistant director for microeconomic studies, Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in testimony June 18 before the Senate Finance Committee.

“In fact, because of the timing of the deposits to the trust fund, DOT has stated that it would need to delay payments if cash balances fell below $4 billion in the highway account or below $1 billion in the transit account. Then, if nothing changes, the trust fund’s balance will be insufficient to meet all of its obligations in Fiscal Year 2016 and the trust fund will incur steadily accumulating shortfalls in subsequent years,” he said.

By the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, he said, the balance in the Mass Transit Account would be about $1 billion and the highway account will contain about $2 billion.

Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of ADA!

In honor of the 25th anniversary of ADA on July 26, APTA has prepared resources that will help its members commemorate this historic occasion with public events, communications initiatives and other activities.

FTA Completes Safety Inspection at WMATA

FTA reported finding serious safety lapses in Metrorail's Rail Operations Control Center during its inspection of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), conducted in the aftermath of a January smoke incident in a tunnel that led to the death of one passenger.

In connection with releasing the Safety Management Inspection (SMI) report, FTA announced it is taking action to improve subway tunnel safety nationwide in response to an urgent recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board following the incident. FTA is directing State Safety Oversight Agencies with jurisdiction over rail transit agencies to conduct audits to assess and inspect subway tunnel ventilation systems. FTA will analyze the data to determine potential future rulemaking and safety guidance to the rail transit industry.

FTA conducted the SMI as part of its new safety authority established by MAP-21 in 2012. The inspection evaluated WMATA’s operations and maintenance programs, safety management capabilities and organizational structures to assess compliance with its own procedures and rules, existing federal regulations and FTA Safety Advisories to ensure safety for its passengers, employees and system infrastructure. The SMI report includes 54 safety findings, 44 for Metrorail and 10 for Metrobus.

A statement released by WMATA said: "We welcome this report as a road map for continuous safety improvements at Metro and we especially appreciate the recognition of the many actions that we have taken to date to provide a foundation for our future work. We will strengthen our operations, customer service and safety culture through training, staffing and ensuring compliance of safety policies and procedures. And with the understanding of our customers, we will address the need for a better balance between service and track outages to upgrade the system. We remain committed to creating an even safer system."

Find the report here.

FTA Seeks Comments on Buy America Guidance

FTA is asking for comments through Aug. 17 on proposed guidance, in the form of a handbook, on complying with its Buy America pre-award and post-delivery audit requirements for rolling stock procurement. The guidance, placed in the docket and on the FTA website, is intended for use by recipients of federal funding, auditors, manufacturers and suppliers.


Sustainability measures can make public transportation increasingly efficient, economically sound and socially responsible. Learn how at the 2015 APTA Sustainability & Public Transportation Workshop, Aug. 2-4 in Portland, OR. Member registration fees increase June 26, so register now!

APTA also invites public transportation planners and schedules to participate in the 2015 Multimodal Operations Planning Workshop, Aug. 10-12 in Houston. Sessions will present the latest in scheduling, facilities planning, technological advances, designing routes and BRT.


Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter is promoting public transportation as the way to get around during an event immediately preceding the Sept. 26-27 visit of Pope Francis. According to the mayor, these combined events will be the largest in the city's history.

The Hill's Congress Blog reports on the critical importance of transportation in increasing economic opportunity and reducing poverty.  

As part of President Obama's Climate Data Initiative and Climate Resilience Toolkit, the administration is providing data and practical information that will help ensure that the nation’s transportation systems are more resilient to the effects of climate change.

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