Where they stand on killing transit projects

Get your member of Congress on the record

President Trump’s proposed budget would cancel all federal funding for new transit capital projects and eliminate many Amtrak lines! This would put a wide range of critical transit projects in jeopardy.  Help us save federal funding for mass transit by telling your representative to fund the program, and getting their position on the record. Please send us quotes to post at info@savetransit.us.

Oppose the transit cuts

Don’t want to cut projects that benefit their district

Not taking a position now

Vague or evasive answers

Support the transit cuts

 

Please send any statements you get from congressional offices, new links, or corrections to info@savetransit.us

Trump admin could approve new projects through September

Facing bi-partisan pushback around the country, President Trump’s transportation department has loosened a freeze on new projects, now saying that it will continue to evaluate new projects for approval through September.

In correspondence regarding a Minnesota project that is getting late lobbying from opponents, the acting chief of the Federal Transit Administration said that the administration will continue to consider applications for funding and left open the possibility of approving projects between now and October 1.

The new date is a later deadline than a message given earlier to the Bay Area regarding Caltrain electrification – a project which has been fully reviewed and cleared for approval, but is hung up awaiting the Transportation Secretary’s signature – that no new projects would get funding if the national transit capital programs continued to be eliminated in the president’s budget expected out in mid-May.

The position in the President’s draft budget, as described in a note from the White House budget office cited in the Washington Post article, is the position long articulated by the Heritage foundation, that transit improvements (but not highway expansions through cities) should be funded only with local funds.

Around the country, Members of Congress of both parties have come out to defend projects valued for economic development in their districts, and rural Republicans have been pushing back hard against the Amtrak cuts.

The economic development arguments are about transportation and also jobs. Powerful Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch of Utah, whose state would gain manufacturing plant that would serve Caltrain electrification and other projects, told the Washington Post that he was “going to do what we can to get that done.”

Transportation Secretary Chao also seemed to be leaning more favorably to the Boston area’s Green Line extension, following advocacy by Massachusetts Governor Baker, a Republican, although she would not give a final commitment, according to this report from the Boston Globe.

The $1.9 billion Minnesota Southwest light rail project would connect Eden Prairie, MN to downtown Minneapolis. As with Caltrain electrification a set of Republicans wrote to Chao urging the administration not to approve the project. The Minnesota project isn’t quite as far along as Caltrain – they expect their final plan including all non-federal funding to be submitted this summer. Caltrain submitted the final plan to the FTA last fall.

The fate of Caltrain electrification, which had passed administrative review by February and is ready for construction to start, remains murky, according to a Friday report from Senator Feinstein in remarks to a group of Silicon Valley Executives on Friday, California’s inland republicans are still unified in their opposition to Caltrain electrification, and encouraged executives to contact these members of Congress. Caltrain’s extension with its contractors lasts until June, and Caltrain will pay a penalty of up to $20Million for this extension of the shovel-ready project, which was ready to go if the project, which had passed all hurdles for approval except the secretary’s signature, which could have been granted as early as mid-February.

Alabama, Mississippi & West Virginia legislators promise Amtrak support

Local advocates for Amtrak have received promises of support from legislators in Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

David Gay, chairman of the Prince Railroad Station Authority in West Virginia, told the Beckley Register-Herald that all five of the state’s representatives in Washington have told him they will support Amtrak.   Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, speaking on the other side of the state in Huntington, confirmed that she, Sen. Joe Manchin, and Rep. Evan Jenkins were fighting the proposed cuts.

The Southern Rail Commission, which is working to restore passenger rail service through Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle, reports that the area’s senators and representatives back return of the Amtrak line and don’t support President Trump’s proposal to cut Transportation Department funding.

Bipartisan support for Amtrak across the Great Plains

Senators and representatives from the Great Plains, Democrats and Republicans alike, are promising to oppose proposed cuts in Amtrak service.

“I think an intercontinental passenger railway is important to our country,” Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska said. “So I always will vote against that. That is not me being parochial. It is actually saying I think it’s important for America.”

His Nebraska colleague Rep. Adrian Smith similarly opposed the Amtrak cuts. “I think the passenger rail service is very beneficial and it’s something communities around Nebraska, I would say, certainly appreciated, and I think folks beyond communities have used this service,” he said.

Both of North Dakota’s U.S. senators issued statements in support of maintaining Amtrak’s funding.

“Without the Empire Builder, folks in rural communities like Rugby and Devils Lake would be less connected, harming our rural economies,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Sen. John Hoeven said that as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he’s working with other senators to keep Amtrak’s funding in place. “While we continue working to find savings and reductions to reduce our debt and deficit, we need to fund our priorities including supporting rural communities and their economies,” he said.

In Kansas, Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins told the Topeka Capital-Journal that “I especially cannot support the $2.4 billion cut to the Department of Transportation’s budget.” And Senator Jerry Moran told a town hall in Garden City that despite Trump’s budget recommendation to cut Amtrak and Essential Air Service, Congress intends to do what it can to maintain funding.

Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, an early Trump supporter, said he’s against eliminating Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which served 454,625 passengers in fiscal year 2016. “That’s a lot of people that would have to be going on some other means of transportation,” he said, noting that the route’s used by not just vacationers but also workers headed to North Dakota.

NEW YORK: Rep. Brian Higgins opposes cuts

Congressman Brian Higgins gave this answer to the Buffalo-area Citizens for Regional Transit: “There is an urgent need for a robust investment in transportation infrastructure, which I’ve highlighted as author of the Nation Building Here at Home Act. President Trump’s budget blueprint which eliminates or slashes programs including TIGER and New Starts takes us in the wrong direction. We should be making a greater investment in transformative transportation projects that create jobs, promote efficient connectivity and drive economic opportunity.”

NEW YORK: Sen. Charles E. Schumer opposes Trump budget

President Trump’s proposed budget eliminates a key transit funding program and points a “dagger” at the possibility of extending Buffalo’s Metro Rail to Amherst, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer.
And Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officials warn that a separate plan to extend Metro Rail at the other end of the line into the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad terminal at the foot of Main Street also is imperiled by Trump’s proposal to discontinue another funding source pegged for the $42 million project.
Taken together, Schumer says, the president’s proposals cast doubt on Trump’s campaign promises to champion infrastructure development throughout the nation.
“It would be terrible for Buffalo,” the New York Democrat said in a phone interview with The Buffalo News.
Trump’s spending plan contains no provision for the Federal Transit Administration’s “New Starts” program, Schumer said, and that presents a major obstacle to obtaining federal funds for the proposed $1.2 billion Metro Rail extension to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus and beyond.
“New Starts is geared toward projects like the Amherst-to-Buffalo connection,” the senator said, pointing to $600,000 he secured for the project’s initial studies a few years ago.
The analysis of the proposal to double the Metro Rail’s existing 6.4 mile system demonstrates why the project should be embraced by the new administration, he said. He pointed to conclusions predicting $1.7 billion in development along the route, an increase in current daily ridership from 20,000 to about 45,000, and a $310 million increase in property values that will raise tax revenues 32 percent for the City of Buffalo and Town of Amherst.
“That’s job, jobs, jobs,” Schumer said, “and the New Starts program is key to getting this done.”

Source: McCarthy, Robert. Trump budget threatens Metro Rail extensions to Amherst, DL&W terminal. March 19, 2017.

33 senators back transit funding

A letter from 33 Democratic senators urges “robust funding” of the New Starts, Small Starts, and Core Capacity programs that fund transit expansions nationwide. The letter, sent April 6, was organized by Senators Dick Durbin (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Patty Murray (WA), and Brian Schatz (HI).

CALIFORNIA: Congresswoman Anna Eshoo released a statement following the Department of Transportation’s decision to delay/kill funding for the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project

“I never imagined that the electrification of a train would be subjected to such brutal, partisan politics. This is not a Democratic project nor is it a Republican project. It is about the modernization of an outdated commuter system that is the spine of the transportation system of the Peninsula and the Silicon Valley region. This project has met every requirement of the Department of Transportation including planning, environmental approval, broad community support and strong local funding, including citizens taxing themselves. The only requirement it didn’t meet was a political one. The Department’s decision today delays any award of federal funding until after March 1st when Caltrain’s contracts are due to expire.

“The electrification of Caltrain is a shovel-ready project which would create thousands of jobs in the Bay Area and employ thousands in other states. It would be built by American workers and built with American products.

“I’m currently exploring options to get federal funding for the project, but March 1st looms heavily.”

Source: Eshoo, Anna. Press Release: Eshoo Statement on US DOT’s Decision to Delay Caltrain Funding. February 17, 2017.