With the partial federal government shutdown in its 35th day on Jan. 25, many small- to mid-sized transit agencies are reporting a financial pinch, Politico.com reports.
Agencies in North Carolina, Missouri, Arizona and California all say that cuts in service are on the table if the shutdown persists.
And at least one transit provider, Cape Fear Public Transportation Agency in Wilmington, N.C., is considering a plan to not operate in February because of a lack of funds. Its executive director reports that Federal Transit Administration (FTA) reimbursements for the first four months of the fiscal year have not been processed with each reimbursement representing a quarter of its monthly operating budget.
But even if the shutdown ended soon, it would not guarantee that the payments would arrive to fund operations, executive director Albert Eby told Politico.com.
A number of candidates to transportation-related oversight posts in the federal government whose nominations were returned to President Donald Trump in early January have been renominated to those posts.
Thelma Drake has been renominated to be the administrator of the DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Lynn Westmoreland, Joseph Gruters and Rick Dearborn are again under consideration for positions on the Amtrak board of directors.
SMART Transportation Division opposes the nomination of Westmoreland, whose voting record as a U.S. representative shows he has a long history of voting against Amtrak funding.
“As a longtime member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Westmoreland has a hostile voting record against Amtrak, which includes efforts to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak entirely. In addition, Westmoreland has been an original cosponsor of the ‘National Right-to-Work Act’ on multiple occasions, which would significantly weaken our ability to collectively bargain. For these reasons, we oppose his nomination as it would undermine the core mission of Amtrak and its employees,” we reported when his nomination was initially introduced in October 2017.
Also renominated by the president are Michelle Schultz to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), and Michael Graham and Jennifer Homendy to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Homendy is currently serving a term on the board that runs out at the end of 2019.
Two nominations also were made to highway oversight positions — Heidi King to administer the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Nicole Nason to administer the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).
These nominations will be considered by U.S. Senate subcommittees before potential advancement for consideration by the full Senate.
Six nominees to transportation-related agencies were confirmed by the U.S. Senate via unanimous consent Jan. 2, including three Railroad Retirement Board members.
Johnathan Bragg, Thomas Jayne and Erhard R. Chorle were all confirmed to the RRB.
Bragg, the labor member of the board and national vice president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), will complete a term that expires this August and then commence a five-year term. Chorle, an Illinois attorney, will serve as RRB chairman with his term expiring in August 2022, and Thomas Jayne, a senior general attorney for BNSF, will represent management for a term that expires in August 2023.
Two vacancies on the Surface Transportation Board (STB) were also filled with the confirmations of Patrick Fuchs, who was a senior staff member of the Senate Commerce Committee, reporting to Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), and Martin J. Oberman, a former chairman of Metra, as members. They each will serve five-year terms. The board now will have three of its five seats filled.
Finally, Joel Szabat was confirmed as the federal DOT’s Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a total of $281 million in additional Fiscal Year 2018 federal funding allocations to five transit projects in Arizona, California, Minnesota and Texas. Funding will be provided through FTA’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program.
“These significant investments in the public transit systems in five communities across the country will improve mobility for riders who depend upon public transit every day,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
FTA has advanced funding for 17 new CIG projects throughout the nation under this administration since January 20, 2017, totaling approximately $4.8 billion in funding commitments. The present administration will have executed 13 CIG funding agreements by Dec. 31, 2018, for $3.3 billion in CIG funding, compared to 10 projects for $1.08 billion during the corresponding period (Jan. 20, 2009 – Dec. 2010) for the previous administration. In addition, with the allocations announced today, the present administration is committing to execute an additional four agreements for $1.5 billion in CIG funding if those projects continue to meet the CIG program requirements.
The projects included as part of the announcement are the Tempe Streetcar project in Arizona; the Los Angeles Westside Purple Line Section 3 project and San Diego Mid-Coast Light Rail project in California; the Minneapolis Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Minnesota; and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Red and Blue Line Platform Extensions project in Texas.
FTA indicated its intent to fund the projects through an updated allocation notice for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 CIG funding appropriated by Congress. FTA is allocating approximately $281 million in appropriated FY 2018 CIG funding among the five projects, which either have a construction grant agreement or are nearing completion of all statutory and readiness requirements. All five projects have either completed or are in process of completing the rigorous CIG program steps as outlined in the law.
“FTA continues to evaluate and advance projects in the CIG program, considering each project on its individual merits while demonstrating good governance consistent with discretion afforded in federal law,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams.
The CIG Program provides funding for major transit infrastructure capital investments nationwide. Projects accepted into the program must go through a multi-year, multi-step process according to requirements in law to be eligible for consideration to receive program funds.
New FY 2018 CIG Allocations
Tempe, AZ: Tempe Streetcar
The Tempe Streetcar is a three-mile streetcar with 14 stations and six vehicles that will connect downtown Tempe and Arizona State University. It also will connect with existing light rail serving Phoenix, Mesa and the airport. The total project cost is $201.9 million with $75 million in funding requested through the CIG Program. Upon final FTA approval of a construction grant agreement, the project will receive $25 million in FY 2018 CIG funds to complete the CIG funding request.
Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles Westside Purple Line Section 3 Project
The Los Angeles Westside Purple Line Section 3 project is a 2.6-mile heavy rail extension from Century City to Westwood and the Veterans Affairs hospital that includes two stations and 16 vehicles. The total project cost is $3.7 billion with $1.3 billion in funding requested through the CIG Program. Upon final FTA approval of a construction grant agreement, the project will receive $100 million in FY 2018 CIG funds.
San Diego, CA: San Diego Mid-Coast Corridor Light Rail Project
The San Diego Mid-Coast Corridor Light Rail project is a 10.92-mile light rail extension from downtown San Diego to the growing University City area. The extension will improve access to employment hubs and numerous educational and medical facilities north of downtown. FTA announced a $1.04 billion grant agreement for the $2.17 billion project in September 2016. The project will receive an additional $80 million in FY 2018 CIG funds.
Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis Orange Line BRT Project
The Minneapolis Orange Line BRT project is a 17-mile BRT along Interstate 35 linking job centers including downtown, Best Buy Headquarters, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Target Corporation, and Southtown Shopping Center. The total project cost is $150.7 million with $74.08 million requested through the CIG Program. Upon final FTA approval of a construction grant agreement, the project will receive $74.08 million in FY 2018 CIG funds to complete the CIG funding request.
Dallas, TX: Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Red and Blue Line Platform Extensions Project
The DART Red and Blue Line Platform Extensions project will extend and modify platforms along the existing Red and Blue Lines to accommodate three-car trains with level boarding. The total project cost is $128.7 million with $60.76 million requested through the CIG Program. Upon final FTA approval of a construction grant agreement, the project will receive $2 million in FY 2018 CIG funds to complete the CIG funding request.
To date, FTA has allocated $1.86 billion of the $2.62 billion in FY 2018 CIG funds appropriated for projects by Congress. FTA will continue to consider additional FY 2018 CIG allocations, based on the merits of individual projects.
As mandated by its drug and alcohol regulation, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will increase the minimum rate of random drug testing from 25 percent to 50 percent of covered employees for employers subject to FTA’s drug and alcohol regulation, effective January 1, 2019. This change is due to an increase in the industry’s ‘‘positive rate’’ as reflected in random drug test data for calendar year 2017.
The required minimum rate for random alcohol testing is unaffected by this change and will remain at 10 percent for 2019.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced Oct. 23 that California and Oklahoma have obtained federal certification of their rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) programs.
Federal law requires states with rail transit systems to obtain FTA certification of their SSO programs by April 15, 2019. By federal law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.
Twenty-seven of 30 states have received approval of their plans.
“FTA is pleased that California and Oklahoma have developed safety oversight programs that meet federal certification requirements and will strengthen rail transit safety,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “With certification, transit agencies in California and Oklahoma can continue to receive federal funding.”
The California Public Utilities Commission is responsible for providing safety oversight of the following rail transit agencies:
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District heavy rail, light rail and automated guideway systems;
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency light rail, cable car and streetcar systems;
Sacramento Regional Transit District light rail system;
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail system
San Diego Metropolitan Transportation System light rail system;
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority light rail and heavy rail systems; and
North County Transit District light rail (trolley) system.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Oklahoma City streetcar system.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has not addressed three congressional requirements for their grants programs contained in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act).
According to the GAO, the FTA has not:
issued regulations regarding the evaluation and rating process for Core Capacity Improvement projects, which are a category of eligible projects within the program;
established a program of interrelated projects designed to allow for the simultaneous development of more than one transit project within the Capital Investment Grants program; or
implemented a pilot program designed to create a fast-track approval process for transit projects that meet specific statutory criteria.
During the review, FTA told GAO that they do not have any immediate plans to address any of the three statutory provisions. The FTA cited an earlier budget proposal by President Trump to eliminate the Capital Investment Grant program, however, Congress provided the program with $2.6 billion in funding since that proposal and required FTA to continue to administer the program in doing so.
The GAO left the FTA with three recommendations for Executive Action:
The FTA administrator should initiate a rulemaking regarding the evaluation and rating process for Core Capacity Improvement projects, consistent with statutory provisions.
The FTA administrator should take steps, such as undertaking additional research or public outreach, to enable FTA to evaluate and rate projects in a program of interrelated projects, in a manner consistent with statutory provisions; and
The FTA administrator should take steps to describe the process project sponsors should follow to apply for consideration as a pilot project under the Expedited Project Delivery for Capital Investment Grants Pilot Program.
FTA stated to the GAO that it is reviewing the law and determining their next steps but did not indicate any specific plans or timeframes for addressing the three outstanding provisions. In their report, the GAO warned the FTA that “by not addressing those provisions, FTA runs the risk of failing to implement provisions of federal law.”
States must receive FTA certification by April 15, 2019, or new federal transit funds cannot be awarded
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Washington have obtained federal certification of their rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) Programs, in advance of an important safety deadline.
Federal law requires states with rail transit systems to obtain FTA certification of their SSO Programs by April 15, 2019. By federal law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.
“FTA is pleased that North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Washington have developed safety oversight programs that meet federal certification requirements and will strengthen rail transit safety,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “With this certification, transit agencies in the three jurisdictions can continue to receive federal funding.”
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Charlotte Area Transit System light rail and streetcar systems.
The Puerto Rico Emergency and Disaster Management Bureau is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Tren Urbano heavy rail system.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Sound Transit light rail systems and City of Seattle street car and monorail systems.
By April 15, 2019, 30 states must obtain certification of 31 SSO programs. With today’s announcement, 17 states have now achieved SSO program certification.
If a state fails to meet the deadline, FTA is prohibited by law from awarding any new federal transit funds to transit agencies within the state until certification is achieved. A certification status table by state is available online.
To achieve FTA certification, an SSO Program must meet several federal statutory requirements, including establishing an SSO agency that is financially and legally independent from the rail transit agencies it oversees. In addition, a state must ensure that its SSO agency adopts and enforces relevant federal and state safety laws, has investigatory authority and has appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size and complexity of the rail transit systems within the state’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, SSO agency personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities must be appropriately trained.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said at CES, an annual technology show in Las Vegas, that she plans to take steps toward creating policy guiding the development of self-driving transportation for trucks, buses, transit systems and trains. One of the steps that Chao plans to take toward creating this new policy is to deregulate these industries.
“I also want to take this opportunity to announce that the Department (DOT) will be seeking public input from across the transportation industry to identify existing barriers to innovation. This includes not only barriers that impact vehicles, but also impediments to innovations that can impact our highways, railroads, trains and motor carriers,” Chao said.
In response to Chao’s announcement, SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch wrote in an email, “This rush to autonomous vehicles of all kinds should worry all transportation workers.
“We have been working with Congress to limit legislation on self-driving vehicles to automobiles and to not include buses and trucks. So far our efforts on that front have been successful,” Risch said. “We will continue to work on this issue, but the times they are a-changing.”
As part of Chao’s efforts to deregulate the transportation industry, notices for public comment have appeared in the Federal Register on behalf of DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Click here to read the Request for Information on Integration of ADS into the Highway Transportation System as published by the Federal Register – to be published 01/18
Click here to read the Request for Comments on Automated Transit Buses Research Program as published in the Federal Register
Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Barriers to Transit Bus Automation
Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Regulatory Barriers for Automated Vehicles from the Federal Register
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued the final rule for the Public Transportation Safety Programthat establishes procedural rules for FTA to administer a comprehensive safety program to improve the safety of federally-funded public transportation systems. The final rule formally adopts the Safety Management System (SMS) approach to safety as the basis of the FTA safety program.
“With today’s action, FTA continues its steady progress in establishing the regulatory framework needed to implement and strengthen our new and existing safety transit oversight and enforcement authorities,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers.
This rule also establishes procedural rules for the FTA to conduct inspections, investigations, audits and examinations of Chapter 53 grant recipients’ public transportation systems, withhold or direct the use of Federal transit funds, and issue directives.
FTA’s Office of Transit Safety and Oversight (TSO) will host webinars on Tuesday, August 30 from 2:00 – 3:00pm ET and Thursday, September 1 from 3:00 – 4:00pm ET to discuss the Public Transportation Safety Program Rule. Participants only need to register for one session. The webinar will provide participants with the opportunity to learn about the rule’s provisions and ask questions related to its implementation.
Progressive Railroading reported that the Federal Transit Administration has chosen nine cities to receive technical assistance to promote economic development around local transit service. This assistance will include in-depth, multi-day visits and workshops. Read the entire story here.
WASHINGTON – The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has recently accepted two reports from the Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS), a safety committee established by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and compromised of transit industry stakeholders.