WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $205 million in supplemental funding for infrastructure grants to small airports in 34 states. More than half of these airports serve rural communities and mostly general aviation. This funding is in addition to the $3.31 billion already awarded in regular Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding during fiscal year 2018.
This $205 million in Airport Improvement Program grants directly addresses the need for improved aviation infrastructure – especially in rural communities,” said Secretary Chao.
This first increment of supplemental funding provides grants to projects at 37 airports. These projects include runway reconstruction and rehabilitation, and the maintenance of taxiways, aprons and terminals. The construction and equipment supported by this funding increases the airports’ safety, capacity and related issues. These improvements could support further potential growth and development within each airport’s region.
Congress provided the supplemental funding through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. The FAA published a Federal Register notice July 9, 2018, which explained the statutory rules, evaluation criteria and the submission process. The remainder of the $1 billion will be awarded during fiscal years 2019 and 2020, based on requests submitted by October 31.
Under the Secretary’s leadership, the FAA is administering the supplemental program in coordination with the regular annual AIP grant program to strengthen the safety and efficiency of America’s airports. U.S. infrastructure, especially its 3,300 airports increases the country’s competitiveness and improves the traveling public’s quality of life. According to the FAA’s most recent economic analysis, U.S. civil aviation accounts for $1.6 trillion in total economic activity and supports nearly 11 million jobs.
The statute’s requirements include:
Requiring the FAA to give “Priority Consideration” to specific airports (smaller and more rural airports);
For grants awarded to non-primary airports, the funds will cover 100 percent of eligible costs (so these airports do not have to provide a local match); and
The FAA administering the program over fiscal years 2018 to 2020.
In the March 2018 omnibus funding bill, Congress provided historic levels of funding for infrastructure investments across America. Following the increase in funding this fiscal year, the Department will invest $10 billion in new transportation infrastructure. The Department is committed to rebalancing investment in historically-neglected rural America.
After a subway attack in Russia this week, more than 80 representatives asked House appropriators to make sure that the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP) will be fully funded. Lawmakers said TSGP could face deep funding cuts under President Trump’s budget.
“We must not let our guard down, and Americans must not have to fear riding the rails or boarding buses,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said in a press release. “Americans made more than 10.6 billion mass-transit trips in 2015, and those systems’ open nature makes them especially vulnerable — a fact not lost on terrorists in Madrid in 2004, London in 2005 and Brussels in 2016. We must maintain a robust, separate funding for these systems’ security.”
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) passed $56.5 billion legislation to fund its programs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The bill includes several positive allocations for rail:
$1.7 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration – $76 million above FY 2016 enacted level
$525 million for TIGER Grants – $25 million above FY 2016 enacted level
$2.3 billion for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts) — $161 million above FY 2016 enacted level
Amtrak: $345 million for the Northeast Corridor and $1.075 billion for the National Network – total $30 million above FY 2016 enacted levels
New passenger rail grant programs created under FAST Act: $50 million for Consolidation Rail and Infrastructure and Improvement grants; $20 million for State of Good Repair grants; and $15 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants
The Senate also passed legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through FY 2017. The legislation would authorize the appropriation of $155 million from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund for the Essential Air Service (EAS) for each of the FYs 2016 and 2017.
Both pieces of legislation face more hurdles before they become law, but we are pleased that they include positive developments for our rail and air members.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unveiled an $8.1 billion plan to fund highway and rail transit projects through the end of 2015, paid for by extending an airport security fee increase and various tax rule changes.
Congress faces a July 31 deadline to renew federal transportation spending authority and avoid a major slowdown in road construction projects nationwide.
The five-month funding extension bill, which also will replenish the dwindling Highway Trust Fund for five months, was introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster.
Conservative Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Conservative Republicans also are committed to privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program with more costs coming out of retirees’ pockets. By contrast, President Obama is committed to preserving Social Security and Medicare as we know it.
When it comes to collective bargaining rights, conservative Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have publicly congratulated the conservative Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio who pushed to curtail and eliminate those rights – especially for public employees. Contrast that attack on collective bargaining rights with the Democratic Party platform position, which is also the Obama/Biden position:
“Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value; every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union.”
We in the transit industry have held our own in these difficult economic times because the Obama administration and our labor-friendly allies in Congress – labor-friendly Republicans as well as Democrats — fought to preserve transit funding. We know what would happen to transit funding if conservative Republicans control the White House and Congress, as they have made clear they would reduce transit funding.
Had conservative Republicans been the majority in the Senate as well as the House, many of our bus operations would have been privatized, our collective bargaining rights would have been curtailed, and our wages, benefits and work rules would be in jeopardy.
All brothers and sisters in organized labor face attack by conservative Republicans. On Election Day, we must take the time and effort to cast our ballots – and encourage others to cast their ballots – to return President Obama and Vice President Biden to the White House and cast ballots for the labor-friendly candidates. A listing of labor friendly candidates is provided by clicking the following link and scrolling down to “Congressional endorsements”:
This election is about saving our middle class. Let us stand strong against those corporate-backed candidates who want to destroy labor unions and curtail worker collective bargaining rights. Our job security, pay checks, health care and retirement are at stake.
(The following article, written by Ken Orski, editor and publisher of Innovation Briefs, is reproduced with permission of Mr. Orski.)
WASHINGTON — Congressional action on transportation this year, including the shape of the next surface transportation bill, will be inevitably influenced by the changed political geography of the 112th Congress.
Not only will the level of funding for transportation be dictated by new, fiscally conservative House appropriators, but the program priorities will be influenced by a new House majority that largely hails from small-town and suburban America.
None of the new GOP majority on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee represents big city transit-oriented districts. A majority come from the heartland. The closest to a major urbanized areas that any of the Republican members come from, are Oklahoma City and Charleston, S.C.
Thus, the committee will likely focus on traditional concerns of keeping roads and bridges in a state of good repair — and try to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund by bringing expenditures in line with expected gas tax receipts. That means a budget of approximately $40 billion to $41 billion annually.
Within these budget limits, transit will maintain its customary standing — although it may receive somewhat less emphasis, given the changed composition of the T&I Committee.
Also likely to be curtailed will be support for high-speed rail, given its cool reception in Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Florida and other Republican-dominated state legislatures.
Discretionary “executive earmarks,” such as the TIGER grants, will most likely be severely cut back if not entirely eliminated. They have not been popular with Republican lawmakers.
Chairman Mica’s resolve to make passage of a multi-year authorization a top priority increases the likelihood that a transportation bill will be brought to the House floor and approved during the first session of the 112th Congress. The Senate is likely go along.
While the next authorization will almost surely be more modest in size and less “transformational” than many in the transportation community would like to see, it will at least restore the federal surface transportation program to a stable and predictable multi-year footing.
January brings a new session of Congress and the start of state legislative sessions across the country. Our UTU legislative team in Washington and our state legislative directors will be on guard protecting the interests of our members.
Two old UTU friends are in charge of key transportation committees in the House and Senate. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) now chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee; and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) continues as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Among UTU legislative priorities:
Growing passenger and freight rail transportation, including Amtrak, public transit and commuter airline service. America has become too dependent on foreign oil and expanded railroad and public transit service can help reduce that dependency and provide not just jobs, but excellent careers.
Growing funding for transit. While demand is growing, many transit systems have buses and commuter rail cars stored because of a shortage of operating funds. We will work to secure more flexible funding so service can be maintained and expanded.
Work to prevent the weakening or privatization of Social Security and Railroad Retirement.
Work with our aviation partners for reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration to include new safety provisions.
Work to pass improvements to the Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Our members know the solution to fatigue: “Just tell me when I must report for work and I will show up rested.”
Among improvements sought will be: A 10-hour call for all unassigned road service; a provision to allow regular yard jobs only eight hours off-duty between shifts; require yardmaster assignments to be covered by hours-of-service provisions; require advance notice of interim release periods; and, a limitation on limbo time to a maximum of two hours for each tour of duty.
While the UTU has many friends on both sides of the aisle, we expect very few major policy issues to pass Congress the next two years given the divided government (Republicans in charge of the House; Democrats controlling the Senate).
While that may be disappointing, we also expect there to be less opportunity for bad things to happen.
That said, we will keep pressing on and do our very best to protect the interest of our members.
Right now in our country, economics are spelling out what transit and transportation will look like, now and in the future.
The UTU Bus Department has been following politics and the trends for funding that are necessary for passenger and public transportation to meet the needs of an aging population and growing automobile congestion. It does not look good.
In every town and community, hard decisions must be made — and we want those decisions made by lawmakers who understand the importance of adequate, reliable and safe public transportation, including transportation of school children by bus.
We have a responsibility to our families, children and community to make sure that the funding for public transportation stays in place. We can do that with our votes on Election Day.
When we say, “vote your paycheck,” keep in mind that the jobs of UTU Bus Department members depend on adequate, reliable and safe funding for public transportation.
We need to get out the vote for labor-friendly candidates who support adequate, reliable and safe public transportation.
Think jobs, because there are candidates out there who are coming after our jobs.
When you cast your ballot on Election Day, support candidates who will do the right thing when it comes to funding and ensuring adequate, reliable and safe public transportation.
I am a laborer. I drive a bus. I want the labor protections that labor-friendly candidates will honor with laws and regulations that my mother fought for as an organizer for the Ladies Garment Workers Union.
We have protections as unionized bus operators, and we want to extend those protections to the unorganized.
Let us all support candidates who are pledged to increased funding for public transportation, job security, safe working conditions and an environment that respects working families.