The Public Transit Capital Investment Relief Act of 2021 would provide relief to public transportation agencies through the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program by increasing the federal cost share by an additional 30% of the total project cost for qualifying projects that are under construction or near completion
Bill would significantly increase federal contribution to the Lynnwood Link Extension and the Federal Way Link Extension projects in Seattle, keeping Sound Transit’s light rail buildout on schedule
Senator Murray: “Public transportation agencies have been confronted with steep declines in ridership and tax revenues that all but evaporated at the onset of this public health crisis—it’s on Congress to step up and keep America moving forward”
ICYMI: Sound Transit faces $11.5 billion shortfall. Now what’s it going to do? - MORE HERE from the SEATTLE TIMES
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced the Public Transit Capital Investment Relief Act of 2021. The legislation would provide relief for public transportation agencies through the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program by increasing the federal cost share of the total project cost for qualifying projects that are under construction or near completion. Senator Murray was joined by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) in introducing the legislation.
“Across Washington state and all around the country there are vital public transit projects that are on the chopping block due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Public transportation agencies have been confronted with steep declines in ridership and tax revenues that all but evaporated at the onset of this public health crisis—it’s on Congress to step up and keep America moving forward,” said Senator Patty Murray. “If public transportation agencies are forced to slash important projects, this will set communities that are already hurting further back. Sound Transit is implementing the most ambitious transit expansion in the nation, building a world-class public transit system that will help create jobs, cut down on pollution and congestion, shorten commutes, and create more equitable communities. As our economy begins to recover, we need to make sure workers and families can get to where they need to go. If we want to build back better, we have to invest in public transportation.”
“Sound Transit is implementing the most ambitious transit expansion in the nation. This legislation would provide Sound Transit and other growing transit systems throughout the country the fuel to drive our nation’s economic recovery,” said Sound Transit Board Chair Kent Keel. “This bill, like legislation passed by the House of Representatives last year, would have a tremendous impact in shrinking our affordability gap and helping us keep our future projects on schedule, generating thousands of green jobs on climate friendly projects our region sorely needs. We thank Senators Murray and Cantwell for their leadership in supporting transit’s essential role in economic recovery and the mobility needs of the Puget Sound.”
The CIG program is a discretionary funding program for the construction and expansion of new and existing fixed-guideway public transit systems such as heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, streetcars, ferries, and certain corridor-based bus systems. Agencies applying to the CIG program work closely with FTA (Federal Transit Administration) through rigorous project development and engineering phases, after which the FTA decides whether to grant the project a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA).
CIG funded projects often are supported by other federal programs, but under current law—regardless of federal funding source—the maximum federal cost share is 80%. However, typical federal cost shares are much lower. A 2017 FTA report found that most projects receiving CIG funding had a federal cost share below 60% and for many projects that share was much less. The Public Transit Capital Investment Relief Act would allow public transit agencies with FFGAs signed on or after January 1, 2017 to opt-in to receive an additional 30% of total project costs. The maximum federal cost share would remain at 80% of the total project cost. The bill would also allow agencies to defer payment of non-Federal share project costs.
Funding from this legislation would only apply to projects already in the Full Funding Grant Agreement stage of CIG and would not cover anything in the engineering phase.
While critical funding has been secured for transportation needs in previous COVID-19 relief packages, that funding has been limited primarily to operating expenses and formula programs are not designed to recognize growth, leaving agencies with projects in the CIG pipeline to consider canceling or delaying projects, which could result in millions of dollars in cost overruns and sunk costs. This would also stymy opportunities to provide new jobs in a period of historic unemployment.
In the Washington state, there are currently two major transit projects that would qualify for an increase in federal cost sharing under the legislation: the Lynnwood Link Extension and the Federal Way Link Extension, both in Seattle. Senator Murray’s legislation would increase funding for the Lynwood Link Extension by a projected $978 million and for the Federal Way Link Extension by $948 million. A full list of current Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Projects can be found HERE.
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray has consistently fought to increase and protect federal transportation and infrastructure grant programs, including the CIG program. Senators Murray has also been a strong advocate in Congress for securing and strengthening federal investments in Washington state transportation priorities, including previously helping Sound Transit secure a $1.4 billion commitment from the federal government to help fund the Federal Way light rail extension, making the project possible. Senators Murray was also instrumental in securing more than $1.2 billion in federal funding commitments for the Lynnwood Link extension project in 2018.
One pager on The Public Transit Capital Investment Relief Act HERE.
PDF of the full bill text HERE.