Blumenthal, Murphy, Northeast Senators Unite in Call to Save Essential Funding for the Most Densely Travelled Region in the Country

(Hartford, CT) – Citing the devastating impact of a House provision in the recently-passed Surface Transportation bill on the most heavily travelled and densely populated corridor in the country, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with their colleagues from across the Northeast Corridor, have united in an urgent request to leaders on the conference committee asking them to stand firm and preserve Senate language on critical funding for transit service in high density regions. If the House provision stays in the final bill, at least $1.6 billion over six years could be cut from formula funding for northeast states. Sudden and severe cuts in funding to these high density regions could have a serious impact on safety, capacity and reliability in communities that are most reliant on public transportation.

“Transit systems in this region account for approximately half of all trips taken nationwide, and the region supports 20 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. The urban areas negatively impacted by the House provision face unparalleled congestion that cannot be addressed by building new highway infrastructure alone,” the Senators wrote. “Continued access to high-quality transit alternatives is a necessary priority that requires the funding provided through the Section 5340 program … [W]e urge Conferees to reject the short-sighted House provision.”

The letter, led by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), was signed by Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (Both D-N.Y.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren (Both D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), , Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tom Carper and Chris Coons (Both D-Del.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (Both D-Va.)

The letter can be downloaded here. The full text is below.

 

November 13, 2015

Dear Chairs and Ranking Members,

We are writing to urge you to recede to the Senate position regarding Section 5340 transit apportionments. This formula provides a core investment for some of the most congested and transit dependent Urbanized Areas (UZAs) in the country.

During the House consideration of H.R. 22, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, an amendment was adopted to eliminate the Section 5340 density apportionments and further increase funding for a competitive bus grant program. While many of us support the concept of increasing funding for a discretionary grant program for bus and bus facilities, it makes no sense to slash existing commitments to transit agencies to do so. Elimination of the density formula would be disastrous for our States and the entire Northeast Corridor. Funding for transit systems that serve Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia would be cut by at least $1.6 billion over six years. Some transit agencies would see their overall apportionments cut by nearly one-third.

The Northeast Corridor is the most heavily travelled and densely populated corridor in the U.S., and having safe and efficient transportation is critical to not only the region, but also to our nation as a whole. Transit systems in this region account for approximately half of all trips taken nationwide, and the region supports 20 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. The urban areas negatively impacted by the House provision face unparalleled congestion that cannot be addressed by building new highway infrastructure alone. Continued access to high-quality transit alternatives is a necessary priority that requires the funding provided through the Section 5340 program.

For these reasons, we urge Conferees to reject the short-sighted House provision and recede to the Senate position.

Respectfully,

Cc: Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell