The CEO of the American Public Transportation Association said President Trump would offset costs for his infrastructure proposal by cutting billions of dollars from public transit and other existing programs that invest in train travel and transportation projects.
"The $200 billion proposed by the administration for infrastructure would be paid for by cutting funding for critical public transportation infrastructure programs," said Paul Skoutelas.
He pointed to the president's fiscal 2019 budget proposal that would cut the Federal Transit Administration's annual capital improvement grants by nearly $1.4 billion, eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or TIGER grant program that Congress usually funds at $500 million a year, and slash $757 million in funding for Amtrak's intercity passenger trains while pushing states to make up the difference for long-distance service in their areas.
"This would be a big mistake and counterproductive to fostering prosperous communities," Skoutelas said.
He added that "APTA will push for a bipartisan approach that continues and expands upon the historic federal support needed to address public transportation's priorities. These include addressing the $90 billion backlog of state of good repair work [in transit systems] and a solution to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent and sustainable."
Other transportation stakeholders also weighed in on the conflicting signals the president's team was sending in its infrastructure and budget proposals.
The Transportation Construction Coalition, which represents 31 industry associations and union groups, said: "At the same time the administration seems to be taking two steps forward, it also takes one, or more, steps back. We oppose the simultaneous call for eliminating transit capital and other transportation construction grant programs put forward in the president's FY 2019 budget. The same budget points out the need for a permanent resolution to the Highway Trust Fund's fiscal instability, but falls short of proposing any meaningful solutions."
While Skoutelas said APTA is "encouraged by specific provisions" in the president's infrastructure plan, he noted that "the cuts the administration proposes in its budget mirror those it made last year and which Congress already rejected."
As for maintaining the transit capital grants, he said, "Congress affirmed this federal responsibility when it authorized $2.3 billion annually, through 2020, for the CIG program in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by bipartisan votes of 83-16 in the Senate and 359-65 in the House of Representatives."
Skoutelas added that APTA "will play an important role" in developing infrastructure legislation.
"Americans across the country deserve a public transit and highway network that is safe, reliable and meets the demands of a 21st century economy," he said. "Congress and the administration have an opportunity to put forth an infrastructure plan that our communities and economy desperately need."
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