California transit leaders denounced the budget plan released by President Donald J. Trump as the act of a federal government retreating from its responsibilities. The spending plan, dubbed “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” addresses discretionary programs for Fiscal Year 2018 by proposing crippling cuts to discretionary programs across federal departments, including at the Department of Transportation (DOT).
The budget proposes $16.2 billion for DOT’s discretionary programs, a $2.4 billion or 13 percent decrease over Fiscal Year 2017. These cuts are achieved by zeroing out federal support for Amtrak’s long-distance train services, limiting federal funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program to projects with an existing full funding grant agreement, and eliminating funding for the TIGER discretionary grant program.
“This budget, which devolves critical federal functions to states, localities and the private sector, is a raw deal for public transportation and commuter/intercity rail, and undermines the President’s own call to invest in America’s infrastructure,” said Joshua W. Shaw, executive director of the California Transit Association (CTA). “With public transportation in California facing a funding shortfall of $72 billion over the next ten years, the federal government should be stepping up to invest in projects that create jobs, relieve traffic congestion and improve mobility, not retreating from its responsibilities.”
“From San Diego to Los Angeles to numerous projects in the Bay Area, Californians across the state have benefited from a strong federal presence in public transportation,” said Michael Wiley, chair of the CTA’s Executive Committee and former GM of the Sacramento Regional Transit District. “Sacramento RT's south line light rail project, which was built in two phases, received two federal grants totaling $245 million. Without those funds the 15,000 people that ride that line daily to work, school, shopping and to the new Golden 1 Arena, would be stuck in traffic adding to congestion.”
Currently, California is the only state in the country with a project — the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project — that has completed the full funding grant agreement process through FTA's Capital Investment Grant program. The full funding grant agreement is now pending execution by DOT Secretary Elaine Chao.
The Association has urged the Secretary to honor the FFGA process and execute the FFGA. In recent years, California has benefitted from billions of dollars of federal funding from FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program for projects, including: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension; San Diego Metropolitan Transit District’s Mid-Coast Corridor Project; San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority’s Central Subway; and, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s Berryessa Extension.
Under the President’s budget, future projects of regional and statewide significance would be cut out from federal support.