With the federal government shutdown looming at midnight Oct. 1, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff told Mass Transit in an exclusive interview during the American Public Transportation Association conference that the shutdown is causing a “hugely lost opportunity,” for agency employees to meet with stakeholders at the conference. The sequester caused a massive cut in the agency’s travel budget in order to avoid furloughs, so they came to this meeting in order to meet with as many transit leaders as possible.
“Instead they will be going to O’Hare tonight in order to get home for the shutdown as required,” Rogoff said.
Very few FTA employees will be on staff when the shutdown takes place, but in the wake of Monday’s Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line crash, Rogoff said he’s in the process of trying to call back more safety investigators to help in the investigation of the incident. When asked what projects may be delayed or grant monies not awarded due to the shutdown, Rogoff said he couldn’t specifically speak to which ones, but stressed there will be delays given how much time is put into preparing to shut down, shutting down, then reopening.
"It’s just a massive, unnecessary distraction from us executing our mission and it’s very, very maddening in that regard,” he said.
Rogoff stressed FTA has done a lot to improve processes and help agencies in recent years, but employees will be shown gratitude for their work by being sent home without pay.
“It’s demoralizing and I think it’s insulting to their efforts,” he said. “And it’s very saddening from where I sit to be one of just a couple of people in the building tomorrow.”
Rogoff said he wasn’t sure how long to expect it will last, but said the “fringe” republicans setting the agenda in the U.S. House of Representatives are endangering the credit worthiness of the nation and effecting much more than just public transportation.
“It is not good for the nation when the fringe of any political party is running the agenda and leading everyone else around by the nose,” Rogoff said. “I don’t care if it’s democrats, republicans or anyone else.”
For more on the opening of the American Public Transportation Association's Annual Meeting, visit http://www.masstransitmag.com/11182025