Three years and 10 extensions later, America has a new federal transportation reauthorization bill.
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), along with transit agencies throughout the nation, applauds congressional leaders and the President for investing in America’s transportation future by passing this much-anticipated piece of legislation.
The bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, was signed by President Obama on July 6 and outlines $120 billion in funding for highway and transit programs over 27 months.
While many would prefer to see a bill spanning longer than two years, MAP-21 gives agencies confidence that there will be a dedicated and reliable stream of federal funding — at least for the next two years.
Having a guarantee from the federal government that they will continue to support transit operations and highway improvements over the long haul is essential to effectively plan for, deliver and maintain critical transportation infrastructure projects.
Perhaps the most important aspects of the bill are the changes to existing law that break down some of the bureaucratic barriers to project delivery allowing for expedited project implementation.
The changes are based in part on OCTA’s "Breaking Down Barriers" initiative, which was launched nearly three years ago, bringing together local and national leaders to identify ways to accelerate project delivery without sacrificing environmental protections.
Some key provisions from the initiative that are outlined in MAP-21 include:
• Allowing states, under certain conditions, to purchase right-of-way before completing the federal environmental review process.
• Allowing states to be reimbursed for pre-construction and design contracts before the federal environmental review process is completed.
• Setting deadlines for decisions by agencies responsible for environmental review, including financial penalties for agencies that do not complete the reviews by set deadlines.
• Allowing states or Metropolitan Planning Organizations to develop plans that address the potential impact of future transportation projects.
• Making permanent a current pilot program that allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to delegate NEPA review authority to states and expanding the program to include rail, public transit and multimodal projects.
These changes have been embraced with bipartisan support and ensure we preserve the environment while moving critical projects to construction earlier.
The result will be completing projects faster, creating jobs quicker and saving taxpayer dollars.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Public transportation on solid footing, will lawmakers face the music," here.
Typically, when riding the rails in the Philadelphia region, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority customers can purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes — even onboard tickets — for their journeys. But the weekend of Sept. 26 to 27 will be far from a typical weekend in Philadelphia — Pope Francis will be in town, along with an estimated 1.5 to two million people attending public events along the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Transit authority operators nationwide have been victims of sometimes brutally violent acts, but in Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has had a decrease in bus operator assaults by almost 60% since 2011. How did they do that?
The cost of copper was around $2.50 a pound in mid-June. While that might not sound like a lot of money, when you have hundreds of feet of copper wire, you’re talking about thousands of dollars or more. Transit systems, which utilize copper in wiring, are the latest target for thieves looking to make some easy cash.
While PTC may have just recently entered the consciousness of the public at-large, it has been an issue for freight and commuter rail systems since Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) (P.L. 110-432) in 2008 following the collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train in Los Angeles. Since that time, rail organizations have been working toward meeting the federally-mandated PTC implementation deadline of December 31, 2015. With less than six months to go, several commuter rail systems have said that, not only will they not meet the deadline, they will need several more years before having full PTC implementation on their trains.
Disruptive technologies and the new era of information sharing are helping to evolve and advance public transportation in our nation’s greatest cities. Nearly 300 mayors and government officials convened in San Francisco June 19-22 for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 83rd Annual Meeting, featuring remarks from President Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. I was invited to speak in front of these influential government leaders to discuss “Technology and the Transformation of Urban Transportation.” This article will give readers an inside look at the conversation.