Transit systems across the U.S. received a boost on Aug. 10 as President Bush signed the $286.4 billion reauthorization of TEA 21, called SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users).
The transportation bill, which suffered through a dozen deadline extensions, includes $56.2 billion in guaranteed funding for public transportation over six years, through Fiscal Year 2009.
APTA President Bill Millar hailed the transportation bill’s signing as “an historic moment that will make a positive difference for all Americans.” He noted that public demand for transit is on the rise. “Last year there were 9.6 billion trips on public transportation, and since 1995, public transportation use has grown by 23%.”
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is one of the beneficiaries of the reauthorization, which provides $100 million for the purchase of 52 new railcars. SAFETEA-LU will also enable WMATA to move toward the implementation of eight-car train service, with start-up by the end of 2006.
The additional railcars are expected to help alleviate overcrowding on Metrorail, particularly during peak periods. The system carries an average of 724,000 people each weekday.
In Providence, R.I., transit officials are pleased with the legislation’s funding for new bus procurement. Mark Therrien, assistant general manager for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, said the agency will see an increase in its basic transit appropriation from $16.9 million for fiscal year 2005 to $23 million during fiscal 2009.
Across the country, officials at Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority lauded the legislation, which provides an estimated $4.5 billion for highway and transit programs and projects. This includes $833 million in additional earmarks for specific projects and highway and transit formula funds.
Included in the project funding is $400 million for the extension of the light rail Gold Line, which will be extended to east Los Angeles.