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Trump Administration Withholding $1.4 Billion in Transit Funds Authorized by Congress

4:12 PM EDT on August 13, 2018

A new “ticker” from Transportation for America shows how long U.S. DOT has refused to award funding Congress granted it for transit projects.

The Federal Transit Administration is sitting on $1.4 billion dollars that was earmarked for new transit projects. But instead of doing its job and granting the funds, under Trump, the agency has been stalling.

Just $25 million of the $1.4 billion appropriated for new transit projects in 2018 has been allocated by Trump's FTA since it was awarded in March, according to a new "ticker" from Transportation for America. Just one project, Indianapolis's Red Line Bus Rapid Transit, has received any portion of the 2018 appropriations.

Meanwhile, 17 other shovel-ready projects that are in line for funding are being jeopardized by Trump administration foot-dragging, T4A reports. Among them is Seattle's Lynnwood Light Rail extension, which already had to be scaled back due to rising construction costs last year.

"Steel and other materials are getting more expensive by the day," writes T4A, which is counting the number of days these projects have been waiting for funds authorized by Congress. "Potential construction workers are waiting to hear about a job that should have materialized yesterday."

The delay is also leaving transit riders stranded.

LA's Purple Line Extension, the third phase of one of the city's two subway lines, for example, has been eagerly awaited for decades, said local transit writer Scott Frazier.

"It has really been the centerpiece of all of LA’s transit taxes dating back to 1980," he told Streetsblog. "The third section takes the line from Century City to Westwood, which is critical for the success of the first two parts of the line."

So far, local transit officials haven't said they're worried about the federal funding falling through, Frazier said. "But in the absence of updates, it’s hard to ignore that they’ve been saying 'any day now' since early 2017."

Without action from U.S. DOT these 17 projects could also be in jeopardy:

    • Albuquerque, NM Central Avenue BRT
    • Dallas, TX DART Red & Blue Line Platform Extensions
    • El Paso, TX BRT Extension
    • Jacksonville, FL Southwest BRT
    • Los Angeles, CA Purple Line Extension (LRT), Section 3
    • Minneapolis, MN Blue Line (LRT) Extension
    • Minneapolis, MN Green Line (LRT) Extension
    • Minneapolis, MN Orange Line BRT
    • New York City, NY Canarsie (L) Line Improvements
    • Orange County, CA Streetcar
    • Reno, NV Virginia Street BRT
    • Sacramento, CA Riverfront Streetcar
    • Seattle, WA Lynnwood LRT extension
    • Seattle, WA Madison Street BRT
    • South Shore (IN/IL) Commuter Rail Double Tracking
    • St. Petersburg, FL Central Avenue BRT
    • Tempe, AZ Streetcar

It's not entirely clear why Trump's U.S. DOT has not been awarding the funding. It may be ideological: Elaine Chao has advanced the fringe far-right idea -- rejected by the Republican-led Congress -- that transit funding is inherently "local" (i.e. should not receive federal funds) while highway projects are "national" in scope. There may also be some disorganization within the agency.

Beth Osborn, policy director at Transportation for America, says cities waiting for funds have done everything they were supposed to do.

“When it comes to funding for infrastructure, this administration has repeatedly made it clear they expect states and cities to pick up part of the tab," she said in a statement. "Yet these communities are doing exactly what the administration has asked for by committing their own dollars to fund these transit projects -- in some cases, going to the ballot box to raise their own taxes — and yet still the administration does nothing.”

T4A is asking supporters to sign a petition addressed to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao demanding the release of the money.

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