- Transit agency executives from across the United States criticized President Trump’s proposed cuts to federal grants for transportation projects in his administration’s FY19 budget plan. Trump’s budget would cut as much as $51.7 billion from programs including Capital Improvement Grants (CIG) and the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, in addition to funding for Amtrak and Washington, DC's Metro system.
- At a press conference Monday hosted by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), transit officials noted the importance of federal funding, in addition to local dollars to help fund projects such as bus rapid transit and light rail. APTA president and CEO Paul Skoutelas said the Trump administration’s emphasis on rural infrastructure for the funds, rather than for public transportation, “is like robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
- The Washington Post reports Congress is likely to make alterations to Trump’s budget blueprint as part of the appropriations process. Elected officials are considering a $1.3 trillion spending package that would fund the federal government past Friday.
Transit officials emphasized how important it is to have federal assistance with projects in addition to local money. Localities sometimes are on the hook for 60% or more, and the ask for federal dollars is a relatively small portion of the overall cost. Carm Basile, CEO of the Capital District Transportation Authority in Albany, NY, said such projects are about choice. "I think [cutting federal grants] will send a message to our community that we don’t want to hear, that we don’t want to see, that all of a sudden mass transit projects that they have become used to seeing from organizations like CDTA are coming to an end or will get cut back," he said.
In a separate speech at APTA’s annual legislative conference, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said one way to pay for public transportation and infrastructure projects is an increase in the federal gas tax. The US Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO support a plan that would raise the tax by 25 cents over five years, generating $343 billion over 10 years. APTA also supports the proposal, Skoutelas said.
But Rendell said that despite similar schemes getting broad support from voters and lawmakers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Congress is unlikely to act. He derided elected officials in both houses as “wussies” more concerned about protecting their positions. “We have to demand our folks get serious, and getting serious means raising the gas tax,” Rendell said.
At APTA’s press conference, Mike Terry, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation, noted Indiana is raising its statewide fuel tax despite having unified Republican control of the state legislature and Governor’s Mansion. “They see the need to invest in our transportation infrastructure and leverage these federal dollars and make them stretch further to invest in our roads, bridges and tunnels and also our public transportation,” Terry said.