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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Obama's FY2015 budget would expand transit rail, address crude-by-rail safety


Unveiled yesterday, President Barack Obama's fiscal-year 2015 budget proposes $90.9 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), including $578 million in recommended New Starts projects and $1.4 billion in existing New Starts Full Funding Grant agreements for transit and rail projects.

The budget also calls for $40 million to be spent over two years to support multi-modal prevention and response efforts designed to improve the safe transportation of energy products, USDOT officials said in a press release. The funding is related to the USDOT's recent efforts to improve the safety of transporting crude oil from the Bakken region via rail. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s office will manage that funding for increased inspections, investigations and research.

Overall, the president's budget for transportation would invest in the nation’s infrastructure network, increase safety and efficiency, and contribute to national economic growth, Foxx said.

"President Obama has offered the kind of aggressive transportation budget our country needs – one that replenishes the Highway Trust Fund today while also helping ensure the country has a safe, efficient transportation system for tomorrow," he said. "These funds will do everything from helping communities tackle their transportation to-do lists to improving access to ladders of opportunity."

FTA, FRA budgets increase
For the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the president proposes $17.6 billion in FY2015 — an increase of $6.8 billion over the FY2014 enacted level — to strengthen transit safety oversight, bring bus and transit-rail infrastructure into a state of good repair, and provide new and expanded transit systems in many communities.

For the Federal Railroad Administration, the president requested $5 billion in FY2015 — an increase of $3.4 billion above FY2014 enacted levels — to invest in rail safety, passenger and rail investment programs. The request proposes $4.8 billion to establish a "National High-Performance Rail System" to support current operations and improve the rail system for the future.

New Starts proposals
Under FTA's New Starts projects, the president recommended: $100 million for the Westside Subway Extension-Section 1 in Los Angeles; $63 million for the SunRail Phase II-South in Orlando, Fla.; $100 million for the Cambridge-to-Medford portion of the Green Line Extension in Massachusetts; $100 million for the Red Line and another $100 million for the Purple Line projects in Maryland; $65 million for the Columbia River Crossing project in Oregon; and $50 million for the TEX Rail project in north Texas.

Full Funding Grant Agreements
Among the existing New Starts Full Funding Grant Agreements, the president called for: $250 million for the transit-rail project in Honolulu; $150 million each for the Third Street Light Rail-Central Subway project in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension in San Jose, Calif.; $150 million for the Regional Transportation District's Eagle project in Denver; $109 million for the Central Corridor light-rail transit project in St. Paul-Minneapolis; $102 million for the Dulles Metrorail Corridor project extension to Wiehle Avenue in Washington, D.C.; $100 million for the Blue Line Extension-Northeast Corridor in Charlotte, N.C.; $100 million for the Milwaukie Light-Rail Transit (LRT) project in Portland, Ore.; and $90 million for the University Link LRT Extension in Seattle. The budget also proposes $275 million for the Red and Purple Line modernization project in Chicago.

American Public Transportation Association President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy praised the president's FY2015 budget plan "for increasing investment in transportation and for recognizing the need to address the imminent shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund and the Mass Transit Account before the current transportation legislation, (MAP-21) expires on Sept. 30," he said in a press release.

"We are pleased to see an increase for critical public transportation infrastructure investments that will create jobs and boost economic development in our communities and our country. We also commend the administration for its continued funding commitment to passenger rail, including high performance rail networks," Melaniphy said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/5/2014