Council calls on Congress to reject an objectionable but already-dead transportation measure

Subway, 1973. (U.S. National Archives, via flickr)
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The New York City Council called on Congress to reject a Republican transportation proposal that it had already rejected.

Today, at 12:19 p.m., the Council sent out a release entitled, "Last Stop: Council Warns New Yorkers of Potential Halt of Federal Funds to the City’s Transportation System."

There was no mention of news that the House Republicans had backed off their plan to eliminate dedicated gas-tax revenue from mass transit late last month. House Speaker John Boehner has since said he will consider a bill by promulgated by the Senate, which was never going to approve the House's move to defund mass-transit anyway. 

Here's the full release:

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**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

March 13, 2012

Last Stop: Council Warns New Yorkers of Potential Halt of Federal Funds to the City’s Transportation System

U.S. House of Representatives’ proposed cuts to mass transit funding could have New Yorkers digging deeper into their pockets

New York, NY ―In what could possibly be the end of a 30 year practice that has kept the pulse of the city’s transportation lifeline beating, the House of Representatives has proposed transportation reauthorization legislation that would jeopardize funding for mass transit and punish urban areas, like New York City, which depend on public transportation. Legislation recently introduced in the House would separate mass transit funding from the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded through gasoline tax revenues. Such an action would relegate mass transit funding to the highly politicized annual appropriations process. Transit deserves better, and such a loss of dedicated funds would have a devastating impact on millions of straphangers and commuters, and could stall or cancel capital projects currently underway by the MTA and other transit agencies.

The New York City Council’s Committee on Transportation will hold a hearing on a resolution which calls on members of Congress to oppose legislation currently being considered in House of Representatives, beginning with the flawed H.R. 7, and ending with any other imbalanced transportation reauthorization bill which punishes urban areas that rely on mass transit.

“It would be a tragedy to kill the federal transit funding that keeps our mass transit system moving,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “I want to thank Congressman Nadler for his testimony before the Council’s Transportation Committee today. His common sense legislative solution will protect straphangers by keeping vital federal dollars in our transit system.”

“I applaud the New York City Council for recognizing the necessity for the continued federal support of mass transit,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY). “For 30 years, Congress has invested in mass transit, just as it has invested in roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure, and there is no reason for this to change. Mass transit is the lifeblood of New Yorkers, and our city’s economy would not function without it. We must join together to oppose the elimination of a dedicated and robust funding stream for transit in federal legislation.”

If the House votes in favor of eliminating dedicated mass transit funding, the city could lose $1 billion in MTA capital funding each year, according to testimony for the New York City Department of Transportation at a recent City Council budget hearing. In addition, the city would face a $327 million cut in road and bridge funding to the state and city over the next 4 years and the following capital projects could be compromised:

East Side Access

Second Avenue Subway

7 Line Extension

Fulton Street Transit Center’s opening of A/C mezzanine

Wheelchair access at the 68th Street & Lexington Ave station

Structural steel repairs on the Throgs Neck Bridge

Installation of countdown clocks on the 8th Ave and Flushing Line

Rehabilitation of the 149th Street-Grand Concourse Station

Platform widening at Fordham Metro North Station

To make up this potential budget deficit, commuters could also face a possible subway/bus fare hike making the current fare of $2.25 jump to $2.75, which would be a 20% increase.

“Our City cannot afford to be short changed when it comes to sustaining its infrastructure,” said Council Member Robert Jackson, main sponsor of Reso 1225. “In 20 years, the city’s population is projected to balloon up to 9.5 million. If federal dollars are not appropriately targeted to maintain and build our transit system, then as the greatest city of the world we will be unable to meet the demands of our own population growth. H.R. 7 will have a domino effect leading to the collapse of our city, state and nation’s economies. I call on Congress to rise in defense of all New Yorkers and defeat H.R. 7 by supporting Congressman Nadler’s amendment.”

“As the largest economy in the nation, funding New York City’s transit system is not just about transportation, it’s about job creation,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “The transit system is critical to our city’s infrastructure in every meaningful way, and the loss of a billion dollars annually would be a devastating and crippling blow to our region’s economy and vitality. I thank Congressman Nadler and the entire New York City Congressional delegation for spearheading the effort to defeat this disastrous idea. Funding for our transit system was a bipartisan idea when it was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, and it must remain bipartisan today.”

There is also concern that the loss of funds would hurt MTA’s credit rating, thus making it far more expensive for the MTA to obtain vital funds in the future. In addition to the negative effect this bill would likely have on current and future transit projects, Congressman Jerrold Nadler has estimated that H.R. 7 would lead to the loss of 550, 000 jobs.

Under the Federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, roughly 20% of revenues from increases in the gas tax go to a Mass Transit Account in the Highway Trust Fund, which constitutes a dedicated funding stream for mass transit. H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, proposes to eliminate the Mass Transit Account and its dedicated funding stream by replacing it with a one-time investment of $40 billion in public transit that would end in 2016.

The Council’s Resolution, (No. 1225), sponsored by Council Member Robert Jackson, would call on the U. S. House of Representatives to:

1) Restore the Mass Transit Account that the bill proposes to eliminate and;

2) Support a bipartisan amendment to legislation proposed by Congressman Jerrod Nadler that would restore transit to the Highway Trust Fund and ensure that we have guaranteed funding for both highways AND transit.

The resolution would also call on the United States Senate to not support H.R. 7 without a restoration of the transit funding.