Friday, July 8, 2011

Making Sense of Funding Available and Reauthorization Talk

Okay, may be it is just me or that my brain has shifted to the summer mode of summmers before air conditioning, but I am finding confusing the news about funding available and the reauthorization proposal and the many responses to it.

Funding - All Sustainable

TIGER grants - $527 million is available from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program. These Department of Transportation funds will be awarded for innovative transportation projects that will create jobs and have a significant impact on the nation, a region, or a metropolitan area. Pre-applications must be submitted by October 3, 2011. Final applications are due through by October 31, 2011.

The money may be awarded for projects beyond public transportation, such as roads and freight rail. In the past, awards have gone for transit buses, streetcars, ports, and bicycle and pedestrian paths. The TIGER website has a very cool map that allows one to peruse previous awards.

Sustainability Initiative

This Federal Transit Administration program will award funds for clean fuel and energy-reducing technologies and transit upgrades. The deadline for applications is Aug. 23, 2011.

Clean Fuels grant recipients will be chosen through a competitive selection process based on their ability to help communities achieve or maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and carbon monoxide, while supporting emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses.

TIGGER III grants, which will also use a competitive selection process, will be awarded based on a project’s ability to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and provide a return on the investment.

Last year's 63 winning projects involved an array of environmental innovations, such as installing energy-efficient technologies at transit facilities, replacing traditional diesel-powered buses with low- or zero-emission vehicles, and building compressed natural gas fueling stations.
Now see why I am confused? Between TIGER and TIGGER, I feel like I am stuck in a Winnie the Pooh story with Tigger bouncing and Tony the Tiger visiting, except that there are no cutely-drawn striped animals involved.

To make this somewhat easier, FTA has a website with information about its discretionary programs, the funding available and deadlines.

Livability Expansion Initiative

Other FTA discretionnary programs include the Livability Expansion Initiative, with $175 million available and a deadline of July 29. The two components include the Alternatives Analysis program and the Bus and Bus Facilities program. The goal of the Alternatives Analysis program is to assist potential sponsors of New Starts and Small Starts projects in the evaluation of all reasonable modal and multimodal alternatives and general alignments options to address transportation needs in a defined travel corridor. Priority will be given to projects that foster the six livability principles. Included in allowable expenditures for the bus program are
purchasing of buses for fleet and service expansion, bus maintenance and administrative facilities, transfer facilities, bus malls, transportation centers, intermodal terminals, park-and-ride stations, acquisition of replacement vehicles, bus rebuilds, bus preventive maintenance, passenger amenities such as passenger shelters and bus stop signs, accessory and miscellaneous equipment such as mobile radio units, supervisory vehicles, fare boxes, computers and shop and garage equipment.
The State of Good Repair program also has a July 29 deadline and has $750 million ready for maintenance and repair.

Related HUD funding

The Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grants are not yet available. Advance notice has been released that there will be $67 million on the table "towards creating stronger, more sustainable communities that connect housing to jobs while fostering local innovation and building a clean energy economy."

Reauthorization Conversation Begins Again

Both the Senate and the House have started anew serious talk about reauthorization, with Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) proposing a one-third cut in highway and transit funding and a six-year bill. Sen. Barbara Boxer has put forth a two-year bill.

The SAFETEA-LU extension will expire on September 30, but it is anyody's guess whether the current discussions will lead to new legislation or another extension. Here is information about the proposals and the perspective of some members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation.

American Public Transportation Association - transit perspective on the Mica reauthoriization proposal.

American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials - coverage of House and Senate activity, with discussion of the current divide between Democrats and Republicans on each.

Amalgamated Transit Union - Responds negatively to the Mica proposal. Says the proposal will cause massive layoffs among transit workers and the service reductions "would be the knockout punch that puts millions of more people on the unemployment line."

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