Miles-driven are on the wane. Aviation has flat-lined. Amtrak is the fastest growing transportation mode in the 21st century with nearly 15 years of ridership records. Transit is at its highest ridership since Congress passed the federal Interstate highway bill in 1956. And biking is also growing by leaps and bounds as young people are delaying or refusing to get drivers licenses.
Congressional leadership isn’t aware of any of this or just doesn’t care. How do we know?
This morning, the House Appropriations Subcommittee chaired by Congressman Tom Latham (R-Iowa) released their draft bill to fund U.S. transportation plus Housing & Urban Development priorities for fiscal year 2015. It outlines a solid approach to prepare America for the 1950s. Broadly speaking the House looks like it is only interested in subsidizing highways, aviation, freight rail and ports. These are the only projects that will be considered for TIGER funding in 2015 under House bill and got sustained or increased funding compared to 2014 levels.
Passenger rail takes a hit, again, with decreased funding for Amtrak, no funding for high-speed or high-performance intercity passenger rail, and no eligibility for TIGER money. Micro-managing restrictions have been also been included for funding of the Texas and California passenger rail projects respectively. See bullets below.
Highways: Funding is flat-lined at 2014 levels to preserve votes.
- New exemptions for truck size and weight limits for Wisconsin, Idaho and Mississippi will damage taxpayer-owned roads and bridges, as well as undercut the competitiveness of privately owned freight railroads.
Air: FAA gets increase of $99 million to $9.75 billion.
Passenger Rail: Cuts Amtrak capital grants by $200 million (from$1.05 billion in 2014to $850 million)
- Amtrak operating subsidy grants at the 2014 appropriated level of $340 million and cuts $200 million from last year’s levels of Amtrak subsidies for capital and debt service (from $1.05 billion to $850 million).
- Ignores Administration’s call for restructuring the passenger rail accounts.
- Zero for high speed rail.
- California High Speed Rail Limitation:
SEC. 192. None of the funds made available by this Act shall be used by the Surface Transportation Board to take any actions with respect to the construction of a high speed rail project in California unless the Board has jurisdiction over the entire project and the permit is or was issued by the Board with respect to the project in its entirety.
- Texas Passenger Rail Project Limitation:
SEC. 165. None of the funds in this or any other Act may be available to advance in any way a new light or heavy rail project towards a full funding grant agreement as defined by 49 U.S.C. 5309 for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas if the proposed capital project is constructed on or planned to be constructed on Richmond Avenue west of South Shepherd Drive or on Post Oak Boulevard north of Richmond Avenue in Houston, Texas.
Mass Transit: Freezes FTA formula grants at $8.595 billion.
- FTA new starts cut from $1.943 to $1.691 billion.
- FTA administrative expense cut to $103 from $106 million.
- BRT and incentive grants are not included.
TIGER grants: $100 million down from $600 million for 2014 and limited to funding only highway, freight and port projects.