After several years of relying on stopgap measures to fund the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs, Congress is moving towards passing a long-term highway bill that funds transportation programs for five years through 2020. The roughly $300 billion bill, named Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), was passed out of a bipartisan conference committee yesterday and awaits approval by both houses of Congress in the coming days. We are heartened by the very real possibility of a long-term bill funding infrastructure and public transportation after years of short term extensions.
Key highlights of the bill include:
- The total funding for public transportation comes out to $61.1 billion over the life of the 5-year bill, which provides $5.929.4 billion more in funding compared to current fiscal year 2015 transit funding levels.
- There is an 89% increase in dedicated bus funding over the life of the bill though a formula and discretionary Bus & Bus Facilities program.
- The Urbanized Areas and State of Good Repair funding programs both increase over the life of the bill. This is important to our region. Capital funding is critical to our regional transit system’s continued success. We have long said that consistent federal funding could help address our capital needs. We’ll keep you posted on the status of this work.
The RTA is a national leader in calling for Congress to invest more in our roads, bridges, rail lines and bus fleets. With the nation experiencing all-time highs in demand for public transportation, the RTA recognized that Congress needed to act quickly in order for transit networks across the United States to adequately provide reliable service to their customers. That’s why the RTA was a founding member of Getting America To Work (GATW), a diverse, national coalition of over 100 transit agencies, business groups and commuter advocacy organizations whose goal has been to urge Congress to pass comprehensive surface transportation legislation. Over the past three years, GATW has:
- Played a leading role in the development and growth of the Congressional Public Transportation Caucus;
- Held hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill with key Members of Congress and staff;
- Conveyed to national and local media outlets the urgent need for federal investment in public transit;
- Aided transit agencies from urban, suburban and rural areas of the nation in the advancement of their public affairs agendas; and,
- Interacted with key players and transportation organizations via social media
The RTA will continue to work with our fellow transit agencies and organizations from across the country to advocate for policies that help us give commuters the reliable and affordable transit options to get to work, school, the grocery story and everywhere in between.
And we will continue our efforts in Washington, D.C. and here in Illinois to ensure that our region maintains a 21st century transportation system. We are committed every day to delivering our riders the service they deserve.