As public transit systems around the northeastern U.S. continue to study the damage of Hurricane Sandy and repairs begin, federal, state, and local authorities are assessing the damage and its financial implications.
The FTA Emergency Relief Program created under Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) authorizes—for the first time—the appropriation of funds to relieve the strain on public transportation systems facing the aftermath of emergencies and natural disasters such as this one. This program will be critical to public transit systems as they seek assistance.
While this program was not funded through the Continuing Resolution, Congress has an opportunity to provide funding through an emergency supplemental appropriations bill when they return to session later this month. In the interim, the Federal Emergency Management Administration has agreed to fund transportation and fuel costs through Nov. 9 with its existing disaster relief funds.
The federal highway program has had a similar Emergency Relief program in place for decades, with $100 million authorized each year to restore highway infrastructure following a natural or man-made disaster. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has already begun to provide grants under this program to the affected states.
APTA will continue to monitor action and is prepared to work with Congress securing assistance for the affected public transit systems.
“Congress had the foresight to create this fund,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, “and it will be vital to our members going forward to ensure that they receive the assistance they need. While the focus now is getting the systems back up and running to provide service to those who rely on them, it is critical that Congress acts when they return to session and provide the necessary funds to the FTA Emergency Relief Fund.”