Moving Passengers and Freight into the Future: A Review of the Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 22 Apr 2008 18:30:00 GMT

The Commission’s Report, required pursuant to section 1909 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59), was released January 15, 2008. The hearing will examine the Report’s recommendations relating to freight mobility; highway, auto, and truck safety; passenger and freight rail capacity and service development; intermodal transportation; and the integration of our surface, maritime, and aviation networks. Witnesses are expected to testify regarding the methodology used to analyze the nation’s long-term transportation system needs and the Report’s recommendations for financing short- and long-term capital investment in infrastructure improvements and expansions.

  • Jack Schenendorf, Commission Vice Chair, Counsel
  • Frank Busalacchi, Commission Member, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Transportation
  • Steve Heminger, Commission Member, Executive Director, Metropolitan Transportation Commission
  • Matt Rose, Commission Member, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, BNSF Railway
  • Patrick Quinn, Commission Member, Co-Chairman and President, U.S. Xpress Enterprises

The increasing number of issues associated with aging water resource infrastructure that is operated and maintained, or owned, by the United States Bureau of Reclamation

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 17 Apr 2008 18:00:00 GMT

Budget Briefing: Transportation Budget Cut, Shifts Funds from Mass Transit to Highways 2

Posted by EESI Thu, 14 Feb 2008 00:38:00 GMT

On February 4, 2008, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters released the 2009 fiscal year (FY) budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to fund construction, maintenance, and operation activities for the nation’s roadways, railways, and air transportation. The proposed $68.2 billion total represents a $2.13 billion decrease from the FY 2008 appropriations bill enacted in December 2007. Moreover, proposed budget rescission measures totaling $3.89 billion would further reduce the budgetary resources available to DOT in FY 2009 to $64.31 billion.

The Administration is again proposing dramatic cuts in federal support for Amtrak. Congress appropriated $1.3 billion for Amtrak in FY 2008 with $850 million going to capital and debt service and $475 million to operating subsidies. The Administration’s budget proposes a total of $800 million, a cut of $525 million or 40 percent. The Administration proposes $525 million for capital and debt service grants and $275 million for “efficiency incentive grants” which would replace direct operating subsidies and give the Secretary of Transportation discretion in how the funds are used.

Other highlights in the Department of Transportation (DOT) budget include:

  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) – $1.8 billion. CMAQ supports transportation projects that assist in meeting and maintaining national ambient air quality standards.
  • Clean Fuels Grant Program – $51 million to support transit operators in transitioning to cleaner and more efficient buses and fuels, an increase of $2 million from $49 million appropriated in FY 2008.
  • Transit Planning – $113.5 million to support the activities of regional planning agencies and states to plan for transit investments, an increase of $6.5 million from $107 million appropriated in FY 2008.

The Administration’s proposed budget request includes $40.1 billion to fund highways and bridges through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a $1.1 million decrease from the $41.2 billion total appropriated to FHWA for FY 2008, including the $1 billion supplemental appropriation for bridge repair. The requested amount also is below the $41.2 billion authorized in “SAFETEA-LU” (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users of 2005).

The proposed budget requests $10.1 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to fund rail and bus transit needs. This represents an increase of $644 million over FY 2008 funding for FTA, but the amount is $202 million below the amount authorized by SAFETEA-LU.

More significantly, the Administration is proposing to transfer $3.2 billion from the Mass Transit Account to the Highway Account, which is estimated to have a negative balance of $3.2 billion dollars in FY 2009. The Administration says these funds will be repaid to the Mass Transit Account through provisions in a future transportation authorization law.

Of the $10.1 billion in total spending proposed for FTA in FY 2009, the Formula and Bus Grants program will receive $8.3 billion, which is the amount of obligation limitation authorized by SAFETEA-LU and is a $593 million increase over FY 2008.

Other major FTA program accounts are funded from the general fund, not the Highway Trust Fund, and are subject to more budgetary discretion. The largest general fund transit account is the Capital Investment Grants program (formerly known as New Starts), which would receive $1.6 billion under the proposed budget. This is $51 million above the FY 2008 level but below the $1.8 billion authorized by SAFETEA-LU for FY 2009. Overall, the Administration’s budget requests $202 million less than the amount authorized by SAFETEA-LU for general fund transit accounts.

For more information contact Jan Mueller,, 202-662-1883.

Water Resources Development Act Veto Override On Tap

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 05 Nov 2007 18:12:00 GMT

In late September Congress sent the Water Resources Development Act (HR 1495) with veto-proof majorities in both chambers to the President’s desk. On Friday he vetoed the bill, which would authorizing funding for Army Corps of Engineers projects, including major projects for coastal Louisiana, the Mississippi River, and the Florida Everglades. This is Bush’s fifth veto of his presidency.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote tomorrow to override the veto, and the Senate will follow suit this week. Top Republicans, such as Rep. John L. Mica (Fla.), ranking member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (T&I), and Sen. James Inhofe (Ok.), ranking member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, have vowed to help override the veto.

Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.) issued this T&I statement:
It is simply irresponsible for President Bush to veto the only WRDA legislation that has made it to his desk since he took office. Our country cannot afford more setbacks on water resources issues and projects that are critical to our Nation’s economy, as well as to our communities.

As the experiences of the last few months have demonstrated, America’s infrastructure is in dire need. Whether the issue is bridges that collapse in Minnesota or levees that fail in New Orleans, our nation’s infrastructure has reached a critical juncture and may be on the verge of failure. How many more failures do we need before this administration understands the importance of investing in the repair, replacement, and sustainability of our nation’s infrastructure? The American people’s lives and livelihoods depend on safe, reliable, and dependable roads, bridges, levees, and navigation corridors.

Continue reading for a review of HR 1495.

Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (H.R. 1495)

HR 1495 authorizes approximately $23 billion projects and studies for the Corps of Engineers within its existing missions of flood damage reduction, navigation, environmental restoration, water supply, hydropower, and environmental infrastructure.

The following is a summary of major projects included in the conference report for H.R. 1495:
  • Authorizes the initial projects for the restoration of coastal wetlands in the State of Louisiana. Over the last century, Louisiana has lost approximately 1,900 square miles of wetlands that provide natural protection for coastal areas from the devastation of hurricane storm surges. H.R. 1495 would authorize the Corps of Engineers to reverse the loss of coastal wetlands, and provide increased hurricane and storm damage reduction for the areas so devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
  • Authorizes the Corps of Engineers to raise and enhance flood protection levees surrounding the City of New Orleans to achieve a 100-year level of protection.
  • Authorize the Corps of Engineers to make improvements to the 17th Street, Orleans Avenue, and London Avenue drainage canals that significantly contributed to the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
  • Authorizes the Corps of Engineers to close the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) that significantly contributed to the flooding of New Orleans.
  • Authorizes the Corps of Engineers to construct 7 new 1,200 foot locks on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway System to reduce the overall transportation costs in the U.S. inland waterway system, and ensure that U.S. agricultural commodities remain competitive in international markets.
  • Authorizes the Corps of Engineers to undertake the systematic environmental restoration along the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway System.
  • Authorizes the first three projects resulting from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and fulfill the Federal commitment to restore the Florida Everglades.
  • Authorizes the development of an emergency response plan to address the VHS virus in the Great Lakes.