The Jan. 15, 2020 New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority public hearing for its proposed federal fiscal year 2020 capital program of projects confirms there continues to be good news from Washington concerning real financial support. Several million commuters will see some of the benefits.
The MTA receives more than $1.4 billion annually from the Federal Transit Administration. These dollars are used to fund various capital improvement projects for NYC Transit subway and bus, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Railroad, MTA Bus (comprised of routes and garages previously comprising the old private NYC DOT franchised bus operators including Green Bus, Queens Surface, Jamaica Bus, Triboro Coach, Command Bus, Liberty Lines Bronx Express and New York Bus before being transferred to MTA under a Master Lease and Operating Agreement in 2005) and MTA Capital Construction Company.
Most federal transportation grants require a 20% hard-cash local share. FTA accepted toll credits instead of hard cash for the local share. This saved the MTA more than $1 billion in the previous $32 billion 2015-2019 five-year capital program. The MTA will save $1.6 billion under the $51 billion 2020-2024 five-year capital program when applying for $8 billion in future FTA funding.
Washington will eventually make available more than $1.4 billion in 2020 FTA formula funding for the MTA. This helps pay for a significant portion of its capital program. This includes $28 million in Buses and Bus Facilities; $793 million in Section 5337 State of Good Repair and $672 million in Section 5307 Urbanized Area federal funding. There are other opportunities for up to several hundred million more in discretionary competitive federal grants.
The MTA can also take advantage of FTA pre-award authority prior to grant approval. Use of pre-award Authority affords the MTA an opportunity to start projects months earlier and incur costs for reimbursement at a later date after grant approval and funding obligation. The MTA can also take advantage of the opportunity to use option clauses up to five years after award of base bids for the purchase of subway cars and buses. This saves money and time by not having to start a new procurement from scratch.
The MTA currently manages an active portfolio of federally funded capital improvement projects and programs in open grants worth more than $12 billion in direct FTA financial assistance.
Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Railroad, MTA Bus, New Jersey Transit and 30 other transit agencies in New York and New Jersey.