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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

House vote delayed on transport bill; APTA continues push for transit funding

A day after U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced the House would not vote this week on a five-year, $260 billion surface transportation bill, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and American Conservative Center for Public Transportation issued a joint statement in support of an amendment that would restore the Mass Transit Account to the federal Highway Trust Fund.

APTA has been lobbying aggressively to restore the account, which the bill would eliminate and replace with a less predictable funding source. Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, the fund dedicates a portion of the federal gas tax to support public transit capital investment.

The Republican bill under consideration in the House would remove the account and funnel all gas tax revenue to highways.

In a joint statement, APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy and the center’s director William Lind noted that the effort “seeks to undo nearly 30 years of overwhelming bipartisan support for dedicated federal investment in public transit,” and would leave agencies with no guaranteed federal investment beyond fiscal-year 2016. That would make it nearly impossible for such agencies to develop long-term capital plans, they said.

“The American Conservative Center for Public Transportation and APTA are particularly concerned that there is a misunderstanding of the conservative position on public transportation,” Melaniphy and Lind said. “Well-known public transit critics create confusion on this point by presenting their positions as conservative when in fact they promote libertarian viewpoints that are inconsistent with traditional conservative goals.”

Investment in public transit, especially rail, substantially raises property values, they said. One dollar invested in public transportation yields $4 dollars in economic returns.
Melaniphy and Lind agree with the bipartisan effort to pass an amendment to the bill that would restore dedicated funding for public transit.

Meanwhile, in the Senate this week, consideration of a two-year surface transportation bill has been mired in debate over proposed amendments that are unrelated to transportation.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/17/2012