Senate’s New DOT Spending Bill Eases One Transit Funding Barrier

large_I5_2Bridge_Render_11248119.JPGAn
artist’s rendering of the proposed multi-modal Columbia River Crossing,
with light rail and a bike path beneath the bridge. (Photo: Oregonian)

During the lengthy process
of pursuing a "New Starts" funding agreement with the U.S. DOT, local
transit officials are often at the mercy of cost-benefit calculations
that have failed to keep pace with evolutions in transport planning.
But one aspect of that slog could soon change, thanks to Sen. Patty
Murray (D-WA).

When evaluating a bid for federal aid by the Columbia River Crossing
(CRC), a proposed multi-modal road and light rail link between Portland
and Vancouver, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) decided to
treat the broad project as separate highway and transit efforts —
effectively prohibiting state gas taxes and proposed bridge tolls from
counting towards the local share of the CRC’s transit costs, as the
Oregonian reported.

Murray fired back by using
her power as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s
transportation panel to insert a relevant provision in the DOT’s 2010
budget. Her language requires the FTA to calculate the local share of
multi-modal transit proposals based on "all local funds incorporated in the unified finance plan" for the project.

Murray’s
move, if it survives a conference with the House, should ensure that
the CRC’s FTA pitch is evaluated using more appropriate math. Yet
Murray’s language would apply across the board, meaning that other
regional transport plans blending roads and transit could have an
easier time winning federal money for the latter portion of the project
— as opposed to just the former.

(h/t Twitter user @cwsjd99)

  • The Dude

    So, I would read this also as requiring the overall project to be cost-effective for its transit benefit (i.e. the transit benefit divided by total cost, not just transit cost). If so, it would make projects like CRC much more difficult to qualify as being cost effective and could drop them out of transit $.

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