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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

LaHood proposes streamlining transit funding; business groups petition for transportation funding bill

Yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed streamlining the way transit projects compete for federal funds.

A day after President Obama said in his State of the Union speech that federal agencies should cut red tape in construction projects, LaHood outlined a plan that would speed up the time it takes major projects to move through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts pipeline.

“This proposal would move more job-generating bus, rail and ferry projects from the drawing boards into construction sooner and with less red tape along the way,” LaHood said in a prepared statement.

The streamlined process would allow the FTA to focus more on economic development and other local needs when evaluating New Starts projects. The proposal also would reduce or eliminate certain time-consuming requirements that are duplicative or unnecessary, LaHood said.

Also yesterday, LaHood used his daily blog to express support for Obama’s call for Congress to pass a long-term surface transportation funding bill. Although Obama’s speech didn’t specifically mention rail, LaHood’s blog stated the administration “will continue investing in innovative ideas like high-speed passenger trains.”

Added LaHood: “These investments work, and with our Buy America requirements, they create opportunities for businesses throughout the supply chain.”

Meanwhile, transportation industry organizations and other stakeholders are voicing support for repairing and upgrading the nation’s transportation system, which Obama also addressed in his speech.

“We applaud the president for including job creation through infrastructure investment in his agenda; let’s not lose sight of the fact that one of the most effective jobs bills would be to pass a multi-year fully funded transportation bill,” said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy in a prepared statement.

APTA was one of more than 1,000 business and labor groups that signed a letter asking Congress to make passing a long-term surface transportation bill its top priority this year.

The letter, presented to lawmakers yesterday, urges passage of a funding measure “that, at a minimum, maintains investment levels before the current law expires March 31.”

“Maintaining — and ideally increasing — federal funding for road, bridge, public transportation and safety investments can sustain and create jobs and economic activity in the short-term, and improve America’s export and travel infrastructure, offer new economic growth opportunities, and make the nation more competitive over the long-term,” the letter states.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/26/2012