Transit group: Trump administration behind on $1.4B funding
- Transit advocacy group Transportation for America is calling out President Donald Trump's administration for holding back almost $1.4 billion in transportation construction funding since the president signed the 2018 appropriations bill in March. According to the organization, only $25 million for all-electric bus rapid transit service in Indianapolis has been released thus far.
- The group tracks the Federal Transit Administration's award activities on a website clock that started ticking after Trump signed the spending bill. It said 17 projects are ready to begin construction, have raised their share of local funds and are just waiting on the FTA to pay up. The lack of action on behalf of the FTA, the organization said, could leave these projects — all categorized as either Small Starts, Core Capacity or New Starts and facing narrow good-weather work periods — susceptible to rising construction costs, thereby putting them in jeopardy. Approved, yet unfunded projects include the Valley Metro Rail's Tempe, Arizona, streetcar project; a Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority light-rail extension in Seattle and platform extensions for two lines in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system.
- Commenting on the condition of anonymity, an FTA spokesperson told Route Fifty. that the projects in question have not yet met the requirements for Capital Improvement Grant funding and that the projects closest to doing so are still in the "grant document preparation phase." Other projects, like a Seattle bus rapid transit system, said the spokesperson, have yet to meet other critical requirements.
In June, Sound Transit reported that it would award major contracts for the Lynnwood Link extension by fall, even though it has not yet received federal grant money. Echoing the concerns of Transportation for America, the agency has been planning pre-award contracts since earlier in the year to lock in costs and keep the project on schedule. Moving forward with the construction process, however, leaves Sound Transit on the hook for costs the FTA won't cover.
While the president's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan has failed to gain traction as of yet and still faces what is sure to be a harsh review from some members of Congress, the administration has made it known that federal funding for projects considered to be local or regional, like the Lynnwood Link, will be tougher to get.
For example, in June, the U.S. DOT announced more than $2 billion in infrastructure grants through the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program and Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) initiative. For INFRA grants, the department urges applicants to secure the majority of financing themselves and use federal dollars as a supplemental source.
Follow Kim Slowey on Twitter