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Roundup: April 29, 2016

Funding Opportunities

If your organization has recently received funding, or is currently seeking funding, from the Federal Transit Administration of the U.S.D.O.T. Pilot Program for Transit Oriented Development Planning, then you may qualify for an additional funding opportunity currently available from FTA. $20.5 million is available to support comprehensive planning services around new fixed guideway improvement projects. For those interested, FTA will host a webinar on the program at 2 P.M. on April 28, 2016.

The Federal Railroad Administration of the United States Department of Transportation is accepting applications from governments, states, and railroads for rail safety grants. $25 million is available in this program through the 2016 appropriations Act that funds U.S.D.O.T. Applications are due by June 14, 2016.

Federal Issues

Tuesday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R – PA) survived a tough primary challenge to a largely self-funded Tea Party opponent.

On Tuesday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved, by a vote of 95-3, FAA reauthorization legislation, after weeks of posturing and maneuvering over dozens of potential amendments ranging from renewable fuel tax extenders (requested by Senate Democratic Leadership but opposed by members of Senate Leadership and powerful lobbying groups like Heritage Action) to pilot rest requirements (Senator Barbara Boxer threatened to filibuster the legislation over this issue). Ultimately 20 amendments were added to the bill during the floor discussion. Now the Senate will wait for the House to act upon their version, hoping to get to a conference committee by July.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved several measure. A $37.4 billion spending bill for energy and water programs, with small spending increases for some agency and some other controversial riders mostly addressing state specific issues passed quickly. The Committee also approved, by a vote of 30-0, a $56.5 billion spending bill that largely signaled approval of the FAST Act, with a few exceptions on Amtrack and trucking hours of service. The committee also signaled a lack of support for the ATC privatization issue, as well as more structure around the development of autonomous vehicles.

Expect the energy and water legislation to be on the Senate floor in coming weeks, but may be preceded by other appropriations measures like Military – Construction or Justice – Science – Technology.

Some experts in Washington expect the next big debate to be over a last-minute provision to the transportation appropriations measure that redefines trucker hours of service. From The Hill: “The spending bill contains a technical fix to a drafting error made in last year’s government spending bill. A provision in that bill said proposed changes to the hours of service rule for truck drivers — which were enacted in 2013 but later suspended — cannot be implemented until the DOT proves the regulation would improve driver health and safety.
“But legislators left out essential language clarifying what would happen if the agency fails to find that the rule is beneficial for drivers, which would force the DOT to revert to rules put in place more than a decade ago.
“The bill fixes the issue and caps the time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel or on duty at 73 hours per week.”

This week, Senate leadership within the Environment and Public Works Committee unveiled significant legislation to update the Water Resources Reform and Redevelopment Act passed by Congress two years ago. Many of the components of the legislation were focused around addressing the recent contamination crisis in Flint, MI. The legislation addresses reforms in both the regulatory and finance arenas. The $9 billion measure addresses 25 new projects through the United States Army Corps of Engineers.  Many experts have noted that the WRRDA focus on drinking water infrastructure is somewhat of a significant shift for the committee, and previous WRDA statutes have focused largely on lock, damn, and levee projects and focused less on consumer focused infrastructure. The corresponding concern, however, is that those consumer-focused programs are largely new initiatives that would flow through the EPA. The measure easily passed EPW by a vote of 19-1.

FAST Act Update

As a result of the FAST Act, the U.S. Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology is beginning the process to develop a multi-modal, five-year Research, Development, and Technology Strategic Plan for USDOT. As part of the project, the USDOT is asking for input from the general public. CLICK HERE to provide a comment.

State Issues

Not surprisingly, Governor Deal’s office announced earlier this week that a Cambridge Systematics study has indicated significant economic benefits to the 11 new major transportation projects that are occurring as a result of the Transportation Investment Act of 2015.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has officially kicked off the celebration of their 100 year anniversary.

In 2014, traffic congestion cost the trucking industry $46.9 billion.

GTA member and long-time Georgia corporate citizen Delta Airlines has signed a 20 year lease extension with the City of Atlanta. As part of the relationship, Delta will invest approximately $6 billion in Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Tuesday, Governor Nathan Deal signed SB 369, legislation that permits MARTA to pursue its first significant capital funding increase in decades – $2.5 billion.

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