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US Mass Transport Wins Big Funding Increase in Stimulus Bill

Light Rail Now Project Team • February 2009

NOTE: The news article cited as the basis for this report was originally linked in a Bulletin on the Light Rail Now Homepage.

A February 13th news report from the Cable News Network details "Winners and losers in the final stimulus bill" initiated by the US Obama administration. The article provides what CNN calls "a breakdown of who gained, who lost and who survived in the final economic stimulus bill that the House and Senate are expected to vote on [imminently]...." The transportation-related programs are described by CNN below...

• High-speed and inner-city rail: Went from $300 million in House bill to $2.25 billion in Senate to $8 billion in final version. There also is a $6.9 billion provision for public transit.

• Amtrak: Picked up $500 million from both House and Senate versions to total $1.3 billion. The bill stipulates that no more than 60 percent can go to the Northeast Corridor.

Urban public transit, Amtrak, and hughspeed rail fortunately were allocated significantly more than what anti-spending legislators in the US Senate wanted to provide (especially several "centrist" senators like Collins of Maine and Nelson of Nebraska), and public transport advocates had been fearing Amtrak funding would end up on the cutting-room floor – so in that sense, public transport emerged a definite winner, including Amtrak.

However, while the stimulus allocation does represent a major influx of desperately needed new funding, still, mass transit has been allowed only about 1% (that's one percent) of the entire stimulus package. Reportedly, Obama economic advisor Larry Summers prevailed in persuading other administration officials to shift more spending to roads and away from transit and Amtrak.

And, as our article US Transit Ridership Surges, But Crisis Deepens, and Clamor Grows for "New Deal" Economic Investment in Public Transport explains, still direly needed is an overhaul of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) policies to free up "shovel-ready" public transport projects for this and potentially future rounds of stimulus funding.

Light Rail Now! website
Updated 2009/02/18

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