May 2, 2017 – TRA Newswire / NARPrail.org / APTA.com

Congress released an omnibus agreement Monday that provides increased transportation funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017, with $57.651 billion in total funding for transportation and housing programs—a $350 million increase above FY2016.

[See all of the passenger rail and transit details at NARPrail.org.]

The spending deal has already secured broad bipartisan support in the House and the Senate, and is a resounding rejection of the philosophy behind the extreme spending cuts outlined by the White House in its proposed FY 2018 budget.

Make no mistake, this is proof of the power of committed advocacy. Without the dedicated action of NARP members and the national passenger rail coalition over the past two months, increased investment in trains and transit would not have made the final deal.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) also applauded Congress for completing negotiations on the fiscal year (FY) 2017 appropriations bill and including significant support for federal public transportation programs. We urge Congress to pass this legislation expeditiously so it can be sent to President Trump for his signature.

This appropriations bill would fully fund federal public transportation programs funded by the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, including $199 million in grants for Positive Train Control implementation.

The legislation would also make appropriations for important discretionary general fund programs. We are grateful for the $2.4 billion that would be made availabile for the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program. We see this provision as a barometer of strong bipartisan congressional support for the program. Additionally, we appreciate that this bill would fund the TIGER program, transit security grants, and passenger rail programs, including support for Amtrak.

This legislative action shows that Congress understands the value of public transportation and how it plays a critical role in the economy and in the lives of millions of Americans in communities of all sizes. If passed into law, these investment in public transportation will positively impact direct and indirect jobs all around the country.

We believe Congress is acting in line with the wishes of the American public. A 2016 poll showed that 3 out of 4 Americans support increased public transportation investment.

Facilitating efficient surface transportation, including public transportation, has long been recognized as a federal responsibility and it is critical to our global economic competitiveness. The federal government currently covers 43 percent of all capital spending for public transit.

Congress affirmed this federal responsibility when it authorized the CIG program in the FAST Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by bipartisan votes of 83-16 in the Senate and 359-65 in the House of Representatives. In the FAST Act, Congress also saw the value in Amtrak and authorized nearly $5.5 billion through 2020 for Amtrak’s national network. Additionally, in recognition of TIGER’s huge popularity, Congress annually funds this program at significant levels, which is routinely oversubscribed and supports important multimodal projects that do not always lend themselves to the traditional formula funding programs.

With a good blueprint in place, all that’s left is for Congress to vote this bill across the finish line. Let your elected officials know you support the passenger rail funding in the FY2017 omnibus, and ask them to vote YES on the ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017.”