U.S. transit systems beleaguered by operational fiscal woes got some potential relief Wednesday, as President Obama signed a supplemental appropriations bill including a provision sanctioning some stimulus package financing for operations funding. The bill allows public transit agencies to use up to 10% of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) formula funds to cover operating costs of “equipment and facilities for use in public transportation.”
The American Public Transportation Association says the language also allows public transit agencies to amend previously submitted applications to redirect ARRA funds toward operating needs. The measure was included as a rider to House Resolution H.R. 2346, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009, which provides funding for overseas military operations.
At the recent APTA Rail Conference held in Chicago, much discussion involved the strain on rail transit operators to maintain existing service levels, even with higher fares, at a time when stimulus package funding paradoxically fueling system expansion.
For its part, the Federal Transit Administration posted on its website a “question and answer” page attempting to anticipate queries from those potentially affected by the new option, noting diverting 10% of funds already approved in most cases would require minimal documentation.
Concerning funding for a federal Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) or Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), FTA notes “it would not be necessary to amend the TIP/STIP. The legislation does not provide additional funding for projects, but rather allows grantees to spend up to 10% of amounts apportioned to each area on operating costs. Grantees wishing to take advantage of this new eligibility in projects already programmed in TIPs and STIPs may do so without formally amending those documents.”
FRA cautions, “For projects not currently included in the TIP and STIP, the current requirements apply, calling for formal amendment of those documents to add the projects.”