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FTA touts transit funding in Administration's FY2012 budget proposal


President Barack Obama's fiscal-year 2012 budget proposal recommends a record $3.2 billion for 27 transit construction projects, including $569.3 million for 10 new rail and bus rapid transit infrastructure projects, and an additional $1.4 billion for 11 projects recommended but left out of previous budgets, according to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

In addition to transit projects that have not yet been funded, the budget also would provide $835.4 million for the continued funding of seven transit-rail projects already operating or under construction in New York City, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Seattle and northern Virginia, FTA officials said in a media conference call yesterday.

The 10 new projects are located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

"The projects we're recommending for funding this year have so far met the demanding requirements of the [FTA’s] New Starts program, which ensures that they represent a good investment of taxpayer dollars,” FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said. "I'm confident these projects will go a long way toward making our communities stronger, offer more transportation choices and open the door to new opportunities for millions of Americans."

The transit budget proposal cuts wasteful spending, while at the same time invests in modernizing the nation’s infrastructure in order to "grow the economy and jobs," Rogoff said.

Of the 10 new projects, those involving rail are the Drager, Utah, Transit Corridor light-rail line; Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line in Oregon; extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco; and the Mesa Central light-rail project in Arizona.

The 11 projects previously recommended but never before included in the rail projects include San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco County Transportation Authority’s Central Subway; Sacramento Regional Transit District’s South Corridor light-rail line extension; Eagle Commuter Rail in Denver; Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit; City and County of Honolulu's Transit Corridor; Central Corridor Light-Rail Transit project in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; and Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County's light-rail line in Houston.

During the conference call, Rogoff was asked to comment on the Republican-controlled House Appropriations’ Committee’s call earlier this week to slash New Starts funding by 22 percent as part of a bill to appropriate funds for the remainder of FY2011.

"President Obama looks forward to working with them to cut spending and the deficit, but obviously the president is looking to go forward with this program, not backward," said Rogoff.

Meanwhile, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) officials expressed "extreme concern" about the Appropriations Committee recommendations.

“None of these cuts make sense," said APTA President William Millar.

In addition, Millar noted that the committee's recommendation also calls for eliminating funding for positive train control (PTC) in the FY2011 budget and rescinds all funding in the FY2010 budget.

 "Implementing [PTC] technology is a federal safety mandate which has been significantly underfunded," he said. "Now it is an unfunded mandate with a looming deadline."

Federal law requires commuter railroads to implement PTC on all their lines by the end of 2015.

Julie Sneider

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/16/2011