Ferries get boost from FAST-Act emphasis on passengers

State and local ferries in Washington will get a boost in funding from the FAST-Act approved by Congress late last year due to an overall increase, and a new formula.

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Pierce County ferries are among those that benefit from the federal ferry formula program. In 2016, ferries in Washington will get 22 percent of the nation’s ferry formula funds.

The Federal Highway Administration ferry formula program gets $80 million per year in the FAST-Act, an increase of $13 million from prior years.

Senator Patty Murray’s office, which keeps close tabs on the program, says a new formula with more emphasis on passengers benefits ferries in Washington.

The new formula is based on 35% passengers, 35% vehicles, and 30% route miles.

The prior formula was 20% passengers, 45% vehicles and 35% route miles.

Washington is one of 38 states and territories that benefit from the program: Alaska and Washington are typically – by far – the largest beneficiaries.

Washington state will receive 22 percent of the entire program – the bulk of it put to work in Puget Sound.

Also included in the FAST-Act: a $30 million per year Federal Transit Administration competitive grant program for passenger ferries.

Here are the FHWA’s projections for ferry formula funding this year for the entire state, based on the new formula and funding increase:

Washington

$17,965,202

 Colville  Confederated Tribes (Inchelium-Gifford Ferry)

281,664

 King County Ferry District

60,234

 Kitsap Transit ‎

131,296

 Lake Chelan Ferry Company

172,184

 Pierce County Public Works and Utilities

270,152

 Skagit County Department of Public Works

310,445

 Wahkiakum County

93,669

 Washington State Ferries Washington State DOT

16,295,854

 Whatcom County Public Works Department

349,704


President Obama OK’s FAST Act

Federal transportation programs are law for the next five years.

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Congressman Rick Larsen successfully pushing for streamlined access to federal funds for smaller cities and counties – now part of the FAST Act.

And the Export-Import Bank is back in business.

Both have been top regional priorities.

Work on both was competed today when President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act  into law.

The House and Senate quickly passed the legislation this week.

The timing is good for the region, where over 375 projects and programs are already counting on $1.6 billion in federal funds over the next three years.

The PSRC is preparing to launch a competition next spring for an estimated $700 million in additional federal funds the region expects to receive through the life of the FAST Act.

The rules for competition for those funds are expected to be set by the PSRC’s Executive Board next month.

You can read the 1,301 page bill and a 56 page “Explanatory Statement”  for details.

The Association of  Metropolitan Planning Organizations put together a good summary.

Arlington Congressman Rick Larsen led efforts to deliver on transportation priorities for Washington state.

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell celebrated the creation new freight programs she’s led the charge on for many years.

Washington Senator Patty Murray secured an increase in ferry funding and noted that the bill will boost  federal  transportation investments throughout the state: Washington expects to receive $3.5 billion in highway funding and $1.2 billion in transit funding through 2020.


FAST Act due Friday

It appears that Congress could deliver a five year transportation bill to the President by Friday.

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Congressman Dave Reichert signs the FAST Act conference report today. “This is an important step toward finding a long-term solution that will support our roads, bridges, economic competitiveness and public safety,” he said.

A conference committee report was signed today that will extend federal transportation programs through 2020.

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act could get a vote on the House floor on Thursday and sign off by the Senate on Friday.

“There’s going to be some things in there that are obviously not the most pleasant to accept,” Auburn Congressman Dave Reichert told Bloomberg Business.

But he indicated that the deal was better than a short term patch and will give Congress time to find more permanent funding.

The bill is funded by traditional transportation revenue and a hodgepodge of other mechanisms, including customs fees and up to $10 billion from the Federal Reserve surplus account in addition to a slice of dividends from Federal Reserve member banks.

It also reauthorizes the Export Import bank, a key economic development priority for the region.

The 1,301 page conference report and 56 page “Explanatory Statement” provide the details.

Among the things that will need sorting out: changes to the Surface Transportation Program, which is converted to a block grant program and becomes home to the Transportation Alternatives program.

Within the central Puget Sound region, over 375 projects and programs are already counting on $1.6 billion in federal funds over the next three years.

The PSRC is preparing to launch a competition next Spring for an estimated $700 million in additional federal funds the region expects to receive through 2020.

 

 


New transportation deadline for Congress: December 4

With negotiations set to formally begin tomorrow, Congress took steps today to extend federal transportation programs until December 4.

TIGER

The TIGER grant program has not been funded or authorized in legislation moving through Congress. The Obama Administration is advocating that TIGER  continue.

The deadline has been November 20th.

The move is intended to provide enough time to process six-year policy and budget legislation – and iron out remaining difference between the House, Senate and the White House.

Despite a wide range of policy differences large and small, leaders in both the House and Senate are anticipating final action before Congress goes home for the year.

A couple of differences include:

TIGER grants

Both the House and Senate end funding for the TIGER grant programwhich is supported by the Administration.

Transportation Alternatives

The Senate sends 100 percent of the Transportation Alternatives Program to places like the PSRC for project selection – the House keeps the current 50/50 split.

Within the central Puget Sound region, over 375 projects and programs are already counting on $1.6 billion in federal funds over the next three years.

Both the House and Senate include several non-transportation measures, including a four year reauthorization of the Import-Export bank.

 


Congress moves toward final transportation package

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a six year federal transportation program for the first time in a decade.

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I-5, over 50 years old, is counting on over $40 million in federal funds for paving and rehab. (Photo by King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert during the visit of Chinese President Xi.)

Today’s action sets up a conference committee with the Senate.

Congress has a self-imposed deadline of November 20th to find common ground.

Long term transportation legislation helps provide certainty necessary to build projects that can take years.

Within the central Puget Sound region, over 375 projects and programs are already counting on $1.6 billion in federal funds over the next three years.

The PSRC is preparing to launch a competition next Spring for an estimated $700 million in additional federal funds the region expects to receive through 2020.

You can find more on The STRR Act that passed the House today here.

The Senate’s DRIVE Act can be found here.

(Bonus points to the person who can come up with the most creative combined acronym for the final bill.)

Arlington Congressman Rick Larsen has been appointed to the conference committee that will shape a final package.

The STRR Act and DRIVE both include reauthorization of the Import-Export Bank – a key economic development priority within the region.


Action on transportation underway in Congress

Congress appears to be moving on transportation.

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Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers selfie with Speaker Paul Ryan. The new Speaker starts with an “open” process on transportation action.

The House of Representatives began debate today on a new 3 to 6 year federal transportation program.

Over 300 amendments have been submitted – and new House Speaker Paul Ryan promised debate on many of them – maybe more than 100.

“We’re opening up the process,” he said.

Forty-five amendments had been cleared for votes by the full House by today.

The House Rules Committee was meeting this afternoon to consider many more.

Final action by the House is expected on Thursday.

Last week Congress gave itself a deadline of November 20th to reauthorize transportation programs.

Within the central Puget Sound region, over 375 projects and programs are counting on $1.6 billion in federal funds over the next three years.

Action by the House this week sets up negotiations with the Senate and the Obama Administration on a final measure.

The Surface Transportation Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2015 would gradually increase the proportion of Surface Transportation Program funds available via PSRC from 50 percent to 55 percent.

One amendment submitted would increase the proportion to 55 percent, and gradually to 60 percent by 2021.

The House bill also includes some non-transportation programs, including a four year reauthorization of the Import-Export Bank – a key economic development priority within the region.

 

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Congressman Larsen prepares for DC action with Lynnwood commute

Transportation interests will be focused on the U.S. House of Representatives when Congress returns to the Capitol next week.

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“I am pushing for a long-term transportation bill that will provide sustainable solutions to our country’s infrastructure needs,” said Congressman Rick Larsen. His commute started with a six mile back up. (Photo credit: Community Transit)

This morning, the region’s top ranked member on a key transportation committee  joined commuters on a Community Transit double decker from Lynnwood to Seattle.

Congressman Rick Larsen of Arlington has backed long term action by Congress.

It’s hoped the House will produce a long term bill this month – to answer Senate action earlier this summer.

Congress will have until October 29 to produce a final long term-bill, or another “patch” to keep existing federal programs on life support.

Congressman Larsen has introduced two bills hoping to influence the overall federal program: ACE, to provide $300 million for at-grade rail crossings, and TIGER CUBS to help small and mid- sized cities secure federal grants.

Within the central Puget Sound region, over 375 projects and programs are counting on $1.6 billion in federal funds over the next three years.

Larsen’s commute to Seattle was described as “tough.”

The PSRC reported that the HOV commute from Everett to Seattle increased an average of 21 minutes over the past five years.

PSRC is preparing to release updated traffic delay data later this month – noting changes this year through June.

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