During his Legislative Conference remarks Rogoff said, “When the administration a couple of years ago first proposed in its budget that the FTA have its own emergency relief program on a parallel with the federal highway adminstration’s emergency reliefprogram, we could have never anticipated the worst transit disaster ever in the history of transit in the United States, namely Superstorm Sandy.
“Thank heaven MAP-21 put that program on the books because it enabled Congress to provide us with $10.9 billion rapidly and we’ve already awarded $400 million of that amount and more coming in the weeks to come, to aid the busiest transit agencies …”
While MAP-21 has many of the right policies, it doesn’t have the right funding levels. And during the administrator’s Legislative remarks he stated, “The No. 1 headwind that we’re encountering is available resources.”
And the sequester has taken $656M out of the Federal Transit Administration, below frozen levels. That has meant a 5 percent cut from the salaries and expenses budget, which pushes that budget back to where it was in 2009 before the added requirements of implementing MAP-21 and before the additional responsibilities of safety regulations.
Rogoff says it is extremely worrisome as it means his employees will be facing furloughs when they should be putting out MAP-21 policy guidance to help agencies do their jobs. It also means the New Starts and Small Starts program has seen cuts.
While the FTA has signed a record number of full funding grant agreements — 2011 and 2012 saw more than any other 2-year period in the FTA’s history — they are facing a funding level about 17 percent below what the president asked for, to a funding level that, Rogoff said, “Will not allow us to honor the commitments that we made in each of these full funding grant agreements for funding for 2013.
“It is very likely that we’ll have to have across-the-board cuts against every one of the New Start projects currently in construction.”
With the current resource level, it could undermine transit’s ability to lower dependence on foreign oil, mitigate congestion and the ability to provide the service as record numbers are clamoring to transit.
During the Legislative Conference Rogoff spoke about where things were one year ago. The House of Representatives was moving forward with plans to strip public transit out of the Highway Trust Fund entirely and instead make funding for public transportation dependent on some of the most controversial legislative proposals put forward, like drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“The proposal was breathtakingly destructive, politically cynical and it prompted my boss, Secretary LaHood, to say that it was the worst piece of legislation that he had seen in over 30 years of public service.”
He said the industry and administration worked together to beat back that destructive proposal. And today, “We need your intervention again because recent congressional actions are threatening to send us backwards.”