Congress may soon be considering a second stimulus package to spur job creation. House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar on Wednesday called for at least $69 billion in new federal spending on highway and transit projects as part of this bill to address a looming shortfall in transportation funding.
This came the same day that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) identified thousands of "ready-to-go" projects that could be funded under such legislation. AASHTO identified 9,500 highway, bridge, transit, port, rail, and aviation projects worth more than $69 billion, including $9.8 billion for transit projects. By surveying transit agencies nationwide, APTA identified more than $15 billion in public transportation capital projects that can be started in 90 days.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Tuesday the availability of $280 million for transit projects as part of the Obama Administration's Livability Initiative, a joint venture of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the FTA press release, $130 million will be available for streetcars and other urban circulator systems, while the remainder will be made available to both urban and rural communities:
A second pot of money totaling $150 million in unallocated discretionary Bus and Bus Facility funds will be available for projects that will foster the preservation and enhancement of urban and rural communities by providing new mobility options which provide access to jobs, healthcare, and education, and/or contribute to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into pedestrian-friendly vibrant environments.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) plans to announce grants early in 2010.
The Transportation Seminar titled “Transportation Workforce Development – Are We Ready?” has been rescheduled for Dec. 8, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 422 of the IACC building on the North Dakota State University campus.
The failure to pass new federal transportation authorization legislation is causing problems for some transportation agencies due to uncertainty regarding long-term funding. The current legislation, SAFETEA-LU, expired in September and has been extended by a stop-gap measure to December 18. The White House and Senate leaders had supported an 18-month extension that would push the new multi-year highway and transit bill into 2011, while House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) had wanted to pass new legislation by the end of the calendar year. More recently, a bipartisan group of Senators have called for a six-month extension that would continue current federal spending until June 2010.
A key question is how to pay for the proposed increases in transportation spending. Most lawmakers have resisted calling for an increase in the federal gas tax, but Sec. LaHood recently remarked that a debate in Congress on such an increase is likely.
Meanwhile, Congress may soon consider a jobs creation bill that could include additional transportation spending. James Oberstar now intends to introduce a two-year jobs/infrastructure bill with the aim of front-loading the spending to further stimulate the economy, followed by a four-year transportation bill with major reforms and changes in the way transportation investments are paid for.
One area that is getting increased funding and support is high-speed rail, as $8 billion in stimulus funding will be awarded starting this winter, and as much as $4 billion more could be included in next year's budget. Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, wrote articles this week in the Duluth News Tribune and Winona Daily News arguing that high-speed rail is a key opportunity not just for big cities but also for rural America. He further argues that Congress should provide funding for pilot projects for adopting new transit technologies in rural areas.
A Transportation Seminar titled "Transportation Workforce Development – Are We Ready?" will be held Dec. 1, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 422 of the IACC building on the North Dakota State University campus. Workforce Development is a popular term these days, particularly given the changing demographics as ‘baby-boomers’ enter retirement. Much attention is being given to understanding the transportation workforce needs as well as attracting and preparing the next generations of transportation personnel. Join us to hear about and participate in discussions regarding educating, attracting, and retaining workforce within the transportation industry.
SURTC has updated its list of training topics and added a few new topics.
New training topics include:
- Giving Effective Presentations
- How to Avoid Common Pitfalls in Writing
- Planning for Technology in Small Urban & Rural Areas
- The Changing Face of America: Diversity and Its Implications for Transit
- Transit and Elected Officials
SURTC develops and provides training for transit operators as needs are identified. If you would like to host a training session, please e-mail Carol Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (701)231-8231.
The Small Urban & Rural Transit Center has released a report pertaining to transit issues resulting from small urban sprawl. Sprawl has traditionally been studied from a large metropolitan area perspective, but small urban areas throughout the country have been affected as well. The report, entitled Transit and Small Urban Sprawl, highlights steps small urban transit providers are currently taking to integrate transit service into sprawling communities, and helps determine what can be done to improve relationships with local governments during the land development planning process.
Questions related to the report or the research as a whole should be directed to Del Peterson who can be reached by email at email@example.com.
The Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, with the support of the North Dakota Disabilities Advocacy Consortium, is conducting a research project on the transportation needs of people with disabilities in North Dakota. The goal is to find out about existing and needed transportation for people with disabilities in the state. Results from the study can be used by public and private transportation providers and human service agencies to review their existing transportation services, identify gaps and needs, and plan improvements. If you live in North Dakota and have a disability, you are invited to take the survey.
Click here to take the survey.
The Small Urban & Rural Transit Center recently held a public transportation workforce development summit in Fargo, ND. Participants included current transit professionals from all around the country, representatives from higher educational institutions, and current undergraduate and graduate students. Breakout sessions focused on internships, higher education, and workforce retention. Presentations and additional information from the summit can be found at http://www.surtc.org/workforcesummit/.
A Transportation Seminar on developing long-range transportation plans will be held Oct. 20, 2009, at 1:00 p.m. in Room 422 of the IACC building on the North Dakota State University campus. The seminar will discuss the role of long-range transportation plans, the planning process, and their role in ensuring the efficient and effective expenditure of public dollars.