New Committee Analysis of Capital Investment Grant Program Shows Project Approval Time More Than Doubled Under Trump Administration, Costing Transit Agencies Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
Because of slow-moving approval process since 2017, analysis shows local governments scrambled to make up at least $845 million in extra costs unnecessarily caused by Federal Transit Administration
Chair DeFazio: “These findings should be a wake-up call to FTA, the Department of Transportation and the White House that it must drop its hostility toward transit and follow the law”
Washington, DC- Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released the findings of the Committee’s majority staff analysis of the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program. These discretionary grants, which receive overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress each year, help transit agencies around the country fund transit projects, including subway, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, and bus rapid transit.
After hearing repeated concerns from transit agencies about the implementation of the CIG program since 2017, including the slow pace of decision-making and new policy guidance leading to costlier projects, in March 2019 Chair DeFazio requested data from both FTA and dozens of transit agencies. Among the majority staff findings:
- Transit agencies face significantly longer timeframes for decision-making by FTA under this administration: The average number of days to get a New Start project through the final phase grew to 391 days, compared to 172 days prior to 2017. The average number of days to get a Small Start project through the final phase grew to 243 days, compared to 112 days prior to 2017.
- FTA actions have resulted in at least $845 million in extra costs for transit agencies created by FTA actions: The Committee requested information from transit agencies documenting higher project costs resulting from changes in the risk assessment process and delays in approving projects, and aggregated data provided by a subset of transit agencies willing to report data. These additional costs were generally covered by local dollars, forcing local governments to scramble to pay for federal inaction. The identified cost overruns do not represent costs for all agencies, only a subset from those willing to report them, and therefore is an incomplete figure.
- The federal cost share for New Starts projects is shrinking: The Committee has also been made aware that transit agencies have felt pressured by FTA staff to seek lower federal shares in order to be approved for a CIG grant. The data provided demonstrates the effect of this pressure; the CIG cost share for New Start projects has dropped over 10 percent in the last two years.
“The Capital Investment Grant program is one of the best tools the federal government has to help communities carry out projects that relieve congestion, reduce emissions, and give commuters safer and more reliable transit options. That’s why you see such broad support for the program in Congress from both sides of the aisle, and why Congress has repeatedly rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to eliminate the program,” Chair DeFazio said. “It’s highly disappointing that the data show the Trump administration defying Congressional intent and being an obstacle, rather than a partner, to state and local agencies. These findings should be a wake-up call to FTA, the Department of Transportation and the White House that it must drop its hostility toward transit and follow the law. Congress and the administration should be working together to improve transportation options for all Americans, not making it more difficult.”
Read the memo prepared by Committee Majority Staff HERE.
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