The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is extremely concerned about the cuts the House Appropriations Committee made in public transportation investment in H.R. 1, the federal legislation that will appropriate funding for the remainder of FY 2011.
In Minnesota, there is much debate as to what public transportation funding is needed. Will a high speed light rail go from Minnesota to Chicago? Is it needed? What will happen if cuts are implemented? What are the needs of workers/commuters in Minnesota and the Twin Cities?
“The proposed cuts to public transportation and high-speed rail made by the House Appropriations Committee will lead to fewer American jobs, fewer safety improvements for public transit users, and will decrease our country’s ability to build for the future. None of these cuts makes sense,” said APTA President William Millar.
Under H.R. 1, funding for the New Starts Program under the Federal Transit Administration, which provides federal investment for large public transportation improvements, will be decreased by nearly 22 percent. “The New Starts program provides federal capital investment for public transportation projects that expand mobility, create and support American jobs, and help spur economic activity,” said Millar.
Every $1 billion invested in public transportation creates and supports 36,000 jobs. Every $1 invested in public transit, $4 is generated in economic returns.
The House Appropriations Committee proposal eliminates funding for positive train control (PTC) in the FY 11 budget and rescinds all funding in the FY 10 budget, effectively zeroing out two years of federal investment in the mandated PTC safety equipment that commuter rail lines must, by law, implement by 2015.
Noting that safety is and should always be the number one priority for public transportation, Millar said, “Implementing positive train control technology is a federal safety mandate which has been significantly underfunded. Now it is an unfunded mandate with a looming deadline.”
Pointing out that federal funding for Washington Metro was also eliminated, Millar said, “Totally eliminating the investment of $150 million for the Washington Metro flies in the face of the findings by the National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) of needed, critical safety upgrades.”
Nearly $3 billion in additional programs, including high-speed rail, were also eliminated for FY 11. Of this amount, $2.5 billion was previously appropriated for high-speed rail in 2010.
“Eliminating funds for high-speed rail is just wrong,” said Millar. “With a growing population and worsening highway and aviation congestion, we need to have a vision that will address transportation needs in the future. High-speed rail is a forward-looking transportation initiative that needs to be put in place now, so that generations to come will have a better transportation system, while creating hundreds of thousands of much-needed American jobs. Now is the time to invest in high-speed rail, not eliminate it.”