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Obama Signs Short-Term Patch; Senate Passes Six-Year Bill. Now What?

While many public transportation leaders are expressing appreciation for the newly signed short-term funding extension and the Senate’s long-term bill, they are also stepping up local advocacy initiatives to build momentum for a new measure when Congress returns from its August recess to a jam-packed agenda. (See APTA’s advocacy story in this issue.) Several APTA leaders share their thoughts about next steps.

Michael Melaniphy
APTA President & CEO

On behalf of the riders who take 10.8 billion trips on public transportation each year, we congratulate the U.S. Senate for its leadership in moving forward a multi-year bill. It is a good starting point and takes us closer to passage of legislation that helps our communities and country increase transportation options and continue to be economically competitive.

However, the job is not done yet. Congress should work to fully fund the six years of the bill. We also urge the House of Representatives to act expeditiously after it returns from the August recess so that final legislation is completed before the Oct. 29 deadline.

We look forward to working with the House of Representatives on development of its bill and with the entire Congress as it reaches agreement on fully funded multi-year legislation.

APTA continues to recommend to Congress that a more sustainable long-term financing solution is needed for the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account to prevent repeated financing crises.

Phillip Washington
Chief Executive Officer
Los Angeles Metro
APTA Chair

I applaud the U.S. Senate for putting America first and passing a long-term surface transportation bill. While not perfect and not completely ­consistent with industry priorities, they got something that looks long-term done. However, we need all three branches of government to come together, like we are doing at the local level, to address this matter of national significance—that being the upkeep of our country’s infrastructure.

I continue to find it amazing that our national leaders cannot find common ground on something as fundamental as transportation infrastructure. After a 24-and-a-half-year active duty career in the U.S. Army and seeing nation building on our dime in other parts of the world, I think we should do some nation building here at home.

I encourage the U.S. House of Representatives to provide the fiscal and long-term infrastructure planning certainty that we need, at the local level, by passing a multi-year, sustainable and industry-focused transportation infrastructure bill.

J. Barry Barker
Executive Director
Transit Authority of River City
Louisville, KY
Chair, APTA Legislative Committee

The U.S. Senate, under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), finally has us on track with a long-term transportation bill desperately needed to address the country’s economic, environmental and social needs.

While the legislative progress is great news, we’re still miles from a successful finish. First, the U.S. House of Representatives needs to follow suit with passage of long-term legislation so our transportation systems can plan and address needs effectively. We can’t do that when the funding plan runs dry after a few months or even a year, the path we’ve been on for the last decade.

Funding reliability and levels also need to improve to meet public transportation basic needs. Reliable funding for six, instead of three, years should be identified for the legislation to hold up as a long-term transportation bill. While there are funding increases called for in the Senate version, they are not at a level that will allow public transportation to do its job effectively and meet the growing demand and needs in communities large and small throughout the country. Levels of funding need to be sufficient to ensure public transportation is there so communities and people have an opportunity to achieve their potential and thrive.

We need to continue to push for long-term sustainable funding at levels that allow public transportation to provide effective service into the future. The millions of people who depend on us every day need and deserve nothing less. Let’s continue to call on Congress to deliver for a successful finish!

Diana Mendes
Senior Vice President
Director, DCS Americas Transit/Rail
Vice Chair, APTA Legislative Committee

The importance and urgency of a long-term bill that clearly increases and commits long-overdue investment in our transportation infrastructure cannot be overstated. The 35 short-term bills that have been passed since 2009 have limited our nation’s ability to realize the full range of potential benefits associated with reliable, long-term investment.

The continued uncertainty and lack of a sustainable funding source have impaired efficient and effective decision-making and caused adverse impacts to the safety, economic growth and quality of life in our communities.

We must make it our top priority to reach agreement on how to pay for the infrastructure that is so essential to keeping our nation competitive while ensuring that committed resources are equitably distributed to best leverage return on investment and meet the diverse needs of all Americans.

A long-term, dedicated funding source is essential to securing a safe and sustainable future. The longer it takes us to agree on a solution, the less likely it is that we will be able to set appropriate priorities in time to leave a legacy of which we can all be proud.

Valarie J. McCall
Member, Board of Directors
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
APTA Vice Chair; Chair, Transit Board Members Committee

On behalf of the riders who take 50 million public ­transit trips in Cleveland each year, we congratulate the U.S. ­Senate for moving this legislation forward. It is critical to cities such as Cleveland for Congress to fully fund the bill, and we urge the House to do its job to finalize this critical, multi-year legislation.

Cleveland, like most cities across the nation, has seen increased ridership as we connect workers with jobs, students with schools and senior citizens and persons with disabilities with life’s activities.

At RTA we work hard every day to be the transportation mode of choice for those with transportation options and the lifeline for those dependent upon our services.

The only way for us to deliver on this vision in an effective way is for increased dedicated funding to allow us to renew our aging rail infrastructure, have a systematic bus replacement program and to best attract, train and retain the best talent available.

Anna M. Barry
Deputy Commissioner
Connecticut Department of Transportation

Connecticut DOT is a genuine multi­modal agency and with Governor Dannel Malloy, we are building a multimodal, $100 billion, 30-year transportation program called Let’s Go CT.  To make that work, we need a federal partner with a long-term commitment to each mode in the surface transportation bill. So, the Senate bill is a very reasonable approach. Including a rail title for the first time is helpful to us, as we craft capital and operating programs for railroad services,  including our Hartford Line high-speed rail program.

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