Wednesday, January 16, 2013

House OKs hurricane funds; rail needs included

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The House of Representatives late Tuesday approved at least $50 billion in relief aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, including $5.4 billion for "Department of Transportation-Federal Transit Authority Emergency Relief."

Earlier Tuesday, the House passed a $17 billion package. It later added about $33.7 billion for long-term recovery efforts in the Northeast, particularly in New Jersey and New York, hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012.

The additional funding amendment was offered by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), whose support for rail and rail transit has been lukewarm at best, often overshadowed by federal fiscal spending concerns.

Passage in the Senate is expected. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said late Tuesday that the House bill was “close enough” to what was sought by him and other regional officials.

The DOT funding would be delivered primarily to four major affected transit properties: New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority; New Jersey Transit Corp., the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (including its Port Authority Trans-Hudson, or PATH, bistate rapid rail system), and the City of New York DOT ferry system.

Some road repair would be funded through some of the $3.9 billion in funds directed toward the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Other infrastructure repair, including some transport-related items, could be funded through $1.35 billion directed toward the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.