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10 Major Cities Urge Trump to Fund Better Urban Transit

11:37 AM EDT on March 13, 2020

President Trump is doing such a poor job of funding infrastructure in urban areas that 10 major cities have banded together to jointly demand immediate action.

The new Metropolitan Civic Leadership Alliance — which includes leaders of the civic group in New York, Boston, the Bay Area, Houston, Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington State and, yes, Columbus, Ohio — is demanding the immediate reauthorization of the Obama-area Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (or FAST) Act, but with tweaks to make the car-friendly infrastructure plan even better for cities.

The 10 regions in the alliance represent nearly 20 percent of the nation’s population and 30 percent of its gross domestic product — and, as such, require "a forward-leaning transportation package that would reward high-capacity regions with greater funding," the group said in a statement.

Specifically, members want:

    • A return to fair funding for cities: Since Trump became president, the federal Department of Transportation has increasingly tilted funding to less-populated states or rural areas.
    • Flexibility: The group claims that the feds are restricting innovation — such as the Trump administration's slow walking of New York's congestion pricing plan. "Cities and regions can help achieve national transportation goals — such as congestion reduction, air quality improvement and economic development — in innovative ways when they have the opportunity to access federal funding and financing directly," the group said in its statement.
    • More federal funding of freight network improvements: Here again, the New York region has direct experience with the Trump administration, which has stalled funding for a crucial rail tunnel under the Hudson River. "Freight funds should be fully multimodal, and the program should give greater attention and authority to metropolitan areas, where complex freight problems affect millions of people and businesses," the group said.
    • Better intercity rail: The reauthorization should "bring Amtrak’s infrastructure to a state of good repair and make improvements," the group said.
    • More grants to city transit: The group wants the feds to provide more money dedicated to major capital improvements (this is hardly a new demand!).
    • Financing for airport improvements: Airport terminals and facilities are not eligible for low-interest financing available through the U.S. DOT. "Giving airports access to this financing tool will lower the cost of capital for these massive rebuilding projects and allow local areas to reinvest those savings to improve our national aviation network," the group said.

“Our metro regions are the nation’s major centers of economic activity and innovation,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, one of the 10 civic groups. “The country depends on us, and we depend on transit infrastructure.”

The key to equitable treatment of cities is to reverse a Trump administration agenda towards funneling transportation cash to rural states that comprise the president's base.

Under President Obama, rural localities, which make up 19 percent of the nation’s population, collected roughly 20 percent of the funds. In his first two years, President Trump flipped the numbers, doling out 70 percent of grants to rural areas.

The new civic group made its request in a letter to both the House and Senate dated March 12. Meanwhile, earlier this year, a group of state Departments of Transportation urged the Trump administration to keep funding roads — but focus on maintaining what we have rather than building new.

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