House Transportation Subcommittee (THUD) on FY 2015 Budget Request

4/3/2014

WRITTEN STATEMENT OF
THE HONORABLE THERESE W. MCMILLAN
DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR
FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

BEFORE THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND RELATED AGENCIES,
COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS,
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Pastor, and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget proposal for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). In addition to marking a clear set of priorities to move FTA’s public transportation assistance programs forward, the budget also reflects the first year of the Administration’s bold four-year reauthorization plan to further strengthen transit and other surface transportation programs.

Across the United States, public transit ridership is on track to exceed 10 billion trips annually for the seventh year in a row. And the U.S. Census projects that the country will add roughly 120 million people between now and 2060—expanding the nation’s population by about a third. In light of these trends, communities are seeking more good transportation choices—not fewer—to provide ladders of economic opportunity to hard-working families, accommodate the needs of seniors seeking to age in place, and improve access to jobs, education, and health care for millions of Americans, including those living in rural areas and tribal lands. At the same time, even as we seek to expand the nation’s public transit capacity, we must also continue to maintain, preserve, and modernize our legacy rail transit systems and aging bus fleets around the nation, which collectively face an $86 billion repair backlog that continues to grow.

To ensure that we can both enhance and preserve our public transportation infrastructure, and keep our economy moving forward, the President’s Budget requests $17.6 billion for transit funding in FY 2015. This request reflects an increase of $6.8 billion over the FY 2014 enacted level. The Administration’s request acknowledges an urgent need to bring our transit infrastructure into the 21st century and plan for future growth. The request also reflects the fact that while FTA has approximately the same number of positions as it did in 1980, the agency today is responsible for three times as many statutory programs and shoulders significantly more responsibility.

This budget goes hand-in-hand with the President’s comprehensive four-year, $302 billion reauthorization plan, including $72 billion for public transportation, which will put our country on a path to adequately invest in transit safety, expansion, state of good repair, and augmented core capacity along congested urban corridors.

Our investment priorities for FY 2015 are highlighted below.

Safety

Strengthening State Safety Oversight

The FY 2015 budget includes $23 million to provide continued operational support for State Safety Oversight (SSO) programs. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) gave FTA long-sought authority to establish safety criteria for all modes of public transportation and establish minimum safety standards for public transportation providers. Keeping rail public transportation safe requires a partnership between FTA and states with SSO obligations—one in which FTA will act as a leader, facilitator, and final regulatory authority and the SSOs will serve as effective day-to-day safety regulators capable of holding transit rail systems accountable for safe operations and ensuring they comply with minimum safety standards. To support this partnership, FTA has reached out to the 31 states with SSO obligations for safe rail transit, providing technical assistance where necessary, to ensure that their programs will conform to MAP-21’s requirements. Additionally, FTA will work to adapt a comprehensive safety approach to all modes of public transportation, including the bus segment, within its safety authority. As we move forward, we fully recognize that no two transit systems are alike, and we will not take a one-size-fits-all approach to strengthening safety oversight.

Public Transportation Emergency Relief

For the third year in a row, the President’s budget seeks $25 million for capital and operating assistance to help transit agencies immediately address the impacts of a disaster and restore service. FTA’s response to Hurricane Sandy—the worst disaster in U.S. transit history—has amply demonstrated the need for continued funding in this area. Congress appropriated $10.9 billion – before more than $500 million in cuts due to sequestration – for Sandy recovery and resilience efforts alone, and while FTA has been an efficient steward of these taxpayer dollars, the agency has no funds to address any new disasters this year or in the coming year.

State of Good Repair

Increased funding to bring the nation’s transit infrastructure into a state of good repair has been and remains one of FTA’s highest priorities. The need for increased investment in this area is evidenced by an $86 billion backlog in preventive maintenance that is growing by $2.5 billion annually. The President’s FY 2015 budget includes $5.7 billion for State of Good Repair Formula Grants—an increase of $3.6 billion over FY 2014 enacted levels to restore and replace aging transportation facilities through formula-based capital investments for fixed guideway systems, and buses on high-occupancy vehicle lanes. The budget also includes $1.9 billion for Bus and Bus Facilities Grants—a four-fold increase that will help bus systems of all sizes make essential capital investments to replace buses and upgrade and replace facilities. Roughly a third of these bus funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to fund large, one-time investments that a formula cannot address and ensure that local priorities are taken into account.

Economic Competitiveness

Urban and Rural Area Formula Grants

The President’s budget includes $4.6 billion for FTA’s Urbanized Area Formula Grants Program and $622 million for its Rural Area Formula Grants Program to provide on-going support for millions of riders and transit services nationwide.

Capital Investment Grants (New Starts/Small Starts/Core Capacity)

The FY 2015 budget requests $2.5 billion for Capital Investment Grants (CIG)—an increase of $557 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. The funding will enable FTA to continue to partner with project sponsors around the nation who are undertaking major new projects or extensions to existing projects to expand their transit service. Included in the total is $275 million for projects that improve the capacity of existing fixed guideway transit services in corridors that are currently over capacity, or will be in five years, and which are in need of expansion to better serve riders. CIG investments are spurring billions of dollars in economic activity across the country in cities like Dallas, Cleveland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Denver—creating tens of thousands of short and long-term jobs and jump-starting investments in new and revitalized employment centers, housing, medical facilities, and more.

Rapid Growth Area Transit Program

The FY 2015 budget includes $500 million for a new Rapid Growth Area Transit Program, a discretionary program aimed at fast-growing communities. The program will provide ready access to resources to develop bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors in communities experiencing moderate to significant population and transit ridership growth. BRT services can often be implemented more quickly than other major capital investments to help get ahead of the congestion that results from rapid growth.

Fixing and Accelerating Surface Transportation (FAST)

The proposed budget includes $500 million for a new competitive grant program designed to spur major reform in the way states and metropolitan regions make transportation policy and investment decisions as well as encourage new and innovative solutions to transportation challenges. State and local partners will be evaluated on their willingness to commit to performance improvements in important areas such as safety or congestion management. FAST will be jointly administered by FTA and the Federal Highway Administration, which is also requesting $500 million in its budget.

Research and Training

The FY 2015 budget includes $60 million to support research activities that improve the safety, reliability, efficiency, and sustainability of public transportation systems by investing in the development, testing, and deployment of innovative technologies, materials, and processes. Of this amount, FTA will dedicate $20 million to fostering the development of a stronger transit workforce by providing ladders of opportunity for individuals to gain new technical skills and address other workforce challenges facing the industry.

Organizational Excellence

The FY 2015 budget requests $114 million to support 580 full-time equivalents. This will help rebalance FTA’s workforce with its workload, complete the staffing plan for the new Office of Safety and Oversight, and improve the oversight of tens of billions of dollars’ worth of transit projects under construction nationwide—many of which exceed $1 billion or more individually.
In total, the President’s FY 2015 budget request supports the construction and operation of public transit systems nationwide that improve mobility and access to jobs for millions, while expanding the capacity of our transportation networks, preserving our legacy systems, and improving the quality of life in our communities.
This concludes my testimony and I would be happy to answer any questions.

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