The House Transportation multi-year transportation proposal (“American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Financing Act of 2012”) maintains the roughly 80/20 split of funding to highways/transit. But it contains several changes to the transit section:
- Mass Transit Account to be renamed Alternative Transportation Account
- Mass Transit Account funding for 2012 to be transferred to the Highway Account
- $40 billion from General Fund to be transferred to the Alternative Transportation account
So essentially the bill swaps funding sources.
Currently, 2.86 cents per gallon of motor fuel taxes goes into the Mass Transit Account, which is a subaccount within the Highway Trust Fund. Retroactive to October 1 2012 that revenue would be transferred to the Highway Account. The Mass Transit Account would be replaced by the Alternative
Transportation Account, and funded from the General Fund. That $40 billion has to be matched by saving elsewhere in the federal budget, since it is a General Fund expenditure. This move presumably puts future transit funding at greater risk than the highway funding.
The Alternative Transportation Account will fund the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, Ferry Boats & Terminals, and Federal Highways research programs (e.g., ITS, University Research) in addition to transit programs.
The American Public Transportation Association’s reaction:
“On behalf of the 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association and Americans who take more than 10 billion public transit trips annually, we are strongly opposed to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee proposal to divert $25 billion in dedicated fuels tax revenues from the Mass Transit Account. This represents nearly 50 percent of the federal investment in public transit authorized by the House surface transportation bill. This drastic change will clearly put public transportation projects at risk.
“This proposal seeks to undo nearly 30 years of overwhelming bipartisan support for dedicated federal investment in public transit. Since 1983, under President Ronald Reagan, fuels tax revenues have been dedicated to public transit through the Mass Transit Account of the surface transportation legislation.
“We call on Congress to continue the long-standing highway and public transit financing partnership in place today so that our country can continue to create American jobs and foster economic growth, as well as rebuild our aging infrastructure and meet the growing demand for improved and expanded transportation.”
See also: “T4 America, APTA decry proposal to end guaranteed transit funding,” MetroMagazine)
Larry Ehl is the founder and publisher of Transportation Issues Daily. In the public sector, Larry was Federal Relations Manager for Washington State DOT; Chief of Staff to US Senator Slade Gorton; and was twice elected to the Edmonds School Board.