Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SAFETEA-LU extensions

In case you were afraid that SAFETEA-LU expired last week, fear not. The current expiration date is February 28, 2010 (this extension was signed into law by Pres. Obama as part of the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations Act, H.R. 3326).

Although nowhere near a done deal, the House-passed "jobs bill" (H.R. 2847) would further extend SAFETEA-LU authorizations to the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2010. The House passed this measure on its way out the door for a holiday recess, but the Senate isn't likely to take it up until January....if at all.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Transit Investments in Indian Country

Last week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced funding awards to 100 tribal transit projects. 39 of these are tribal transit capital projects funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). 61 of these are tribal transit projects funded under the FY 2009 allocation for Section 5311(c), which supports capital, operating and planning grants for tribes' transit activities.

For details, see the announcement posted to the FTA website on December 11, 2009.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Minibus" Brings Money to Transit

Yesterday (Dec 8), House and Senate negotiators came to terms on a $447 billion Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2010. This bill covers Transportation-HUD, Labor-HHS-Education, and four other areas of federal appropriations for the year.

Highlights of the conference agreement, which would increase transit spending above FY 2009 levels, add funds in the DOT and HUD budgets for aspects of the federal "livability" agenda, and provide modest increases in federal funding for job training, senior services, Head Start, community health centers, et al., are available at the House Appropriations Committee web site, together with the complete text of the conference report.

House and Senate acceptance of this agreement is expected later this week, at which time the bill would be whisked off to President Obama for his expected signature.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

FTA Now Seeking Applications for Livability Projects

As expected, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is seeking applications for transit capital projects as the US DOT’s latest contribution to the DOT-HUD-EPA partnership for sustainable communities. There are two FTA notices in the December 8, 2010, Federal Register.

One is for grants under a Section 5309 "Livability Bus Program." Application deadline is February 8, 2010. Since these are Section 5309 funds, eligible applicants are direct recipients of Section 5307 funds in urbanized areas, Indian tribes (regardless of whether they are receiving Section 5311(c) funds), and states. Projects can be located in urban or rural areas. A total of $150 million is available for competitive grants under this heading; federal share is 80 percent. Although the program is intended to support the six principles of the DOT-HUD-EPA partnership, these grants can be used only for activities eligible for funding under the Section 5309 Bus and Bus Facilities program, which should present a constructive challenge to prospective applicants.

The other is for grants under a Section 5309 "Urban Circulator" program. Application deadline is February 8, 2010. Eligible applicants are those who are eligible for "new starts/small starts" funding under Section 5309, which essentially are state governments and urban public transit authorities. A total of $130 million is available for competitive grants under this heading, all grants will be $25 million or less; federal share is 80 percent. Similar to the “bus” program, grants can be used only for activities eligible for funding under the Section 5309 “New Starts/Small Starts” program.

Although published in the December 8, 2009, Federal Register, it will take a day or so before these notices appear on the FTA web site, but they will be there shortly.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Congress Casts Eyes on Transit Safety

While most of the nation's Congressional reporting is going to be on the Senate and health care this week, a couple of calendar items from committees will be of interest to many in the transit community.

On Tuesday, December 8, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee's Highways & Transit Subcommittee is going to have a hearing on "Public Transit Safety: Examining the Federal Role." Witness lists and prepared testimony are not yet on-line, but this hearing will be webcast live at 10:00am (Eastern time) that day. A link to the webcast can be made from the committee's website.

And on the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee's Housing, Transportation & Community Development Subcommittee will be convening a very similar hearing at 9:30am (Eastern time) on Thursday, December 10, entitled "Examining the Federal Role in Overseeing the Safety of Public Transportation Systems." This hearing will be webcast live that day via the Committee's website.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

FTA Announces Money for Urban, Rural Transit Livability

At a media event in New Orleans on December 1, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will be making available $280 million for livability-related transit projects. According to a press release issued that day, $130 million will be available for rail and fixed guideway projects, such as streetcars, circulators, and related mixed-use/walkable/high-density developments. Additionally, $150 million of "Bus and Bus Facility funds will be available for projects that will foster the preservation and enhancement of urban and rural communities by providing new mobility options which provide access to jobs, healthcare, and education, and/or contribute to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into pedestrian-friendly vibrant environments."

Details on timeframes, solicitation processes and related concerns should be available imminently from FTA, but haven't been posted on the FTA website. Interested persons probably should contact their nearest FTA regional office for application processes and details.