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 deadline for federal transportation programs: October 29

With President Obama’s signature, federal transportation programs will stay alive through October 29th.

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A new terminal at Coleman Dock is counting on over $150 million in federal funds. The old ferry terminal at Pier 52 in Seattle is on its last legs. (Washington State Ferries conceptual drawing.)

The three month patch cleared the House and Senate this week.

The patch includes enough funding to pay bills through December, but no authority for federal programs beyond October.

It is designed to keep transportation funds flowing, and allow the House and Senate to find common ground on a long-term authorization package before Halloween.

The Senate completed action on a six year authorization this week, with the expectation that the House will follow-up in September.

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.

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Transportation fixes advance in Congress – patch or multi-year program by July 31?

The United States Senate has been presented with a new long term transportation extension – but its near term prospects are uncertain.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “a long term package is in the best interest of the country.” Senator Barbara Boxer reminded the Senate that in ten days federal transportation programs “will go bust.” (C-SPAN)

An “agreement in principle” announced today would authorize federal transportation programs for six years, and fund them for three years.

An initial vote to failed amid protests that Senators need time to read the agreement.

Senate action is required by July 31st to keep transportation programs alive.

Last week the House of Representatives approved a funding patch through December 18th.

The House and Senate have ten days to agree on a multi year program, or a short term patch.

Senate leaders have indicated they’re prepared to approve a patch should the long term measure stall.

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.

 

 

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Congress gets new transportation proposal – May 31 deadline looming

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent new legislation to Congress today – a six-year fix to federal transportation programs with a one-time tax on untaxed foreign earnings by U.S. companies overseas.

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Legislation sent to Congress today would increase federal funding for public transportation by 76 percent.

The Administration’s proposal joins many others in what’s looking like another down to the wire transportation standoff in Congress.

Federal transportation program expire May 31st and there has been no movement on any proposed fix.

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

Most pundits are predicting a short-term “patch” to sustain the Highway Trust Fund – and current federal programs – past the May 31st expiration date.

Today’s proposal from the USDOT would increase funding for the Federal Highway Administration by $12 billion (29 percent) annually and includes over 70 percent more in federal transit funding.

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MAP-21 reauthorization moving in Congress

With federal transportation programs set to expire on September 30th, a key U.S. Senate committee has made the first move to reauthorize them.

Federal transportation funding available to the state, including from the PSRC, depend on MAP-21.

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California Senator Barbara Boxer

The Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee approved a six year reauthorization of federal highway programs this morning.  Overall funding is kept to this year’s levels, with inflation increases over the life of the bill.

“This committee is getting the ball rolling,” said California Senator Barbara Boxer, Committee Chair.  “We need a long term bill.  A short term extension only extends uncertainty.”

The Senate’s Banking, Commerce and Finance committees all need to produce legislation for the Senate to vote.  A House bill is in the works.

Boxer’s bill does not include a fix for the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to run out of money as early as August, unless Congress acts before then.

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the trust fund last week.  It’s the job of the Finance Committee to address this year’s trust fund shortfalls and find funding for a new six year MAP-21.

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Transportation Funding for the Region: Use it or Lose it

The new federal transportation law, MAP-21, emphasizes project delivery and performance monitoring for funds allocated to regions and states.

The goal is to ensure funds are put to work to improve transportation as quickly as possible.

At its meeting on Thursday, the Transportation Policy Board heard details on updated project delivery targets for the PSRC region.

The Washington State Department of Transportation and the 14 metropolitan and regional transportation planning organizations around the state have reached agreement on specific delivery targets for each region of the state and for each Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funding source.

If a region does not meet the deadline for using the target amount of federal funds, the unused funds will be reallocated to other regions or to the state.

If a region meets or exceeds the targets for using funds, there is a possibility a region could receive bonus funds from other regions or states.

In May, PSRC’s Regional Project Evaluation Committee will offer a recommendation to the Transportation Policy Board designed to ensure that PSRC funds stay in the central Puget Sound region.

See what else happened at the Transportation Policy Board meeting.

 

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