NEW YORK— New federal legislation would cut federal funding for the MTA to dangerously low levels, said elected officials, transportation union representatives, and MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota, on Monday at Grand Central Terminal.
The bill would have “a terrible impact on each and every one of the four mega-projects”—East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, Fulton Street Transit Center, and West 7 Extension—said Lhota, who added fares would increase if the bill is passed.
More money was dedicated to transportation after Ronald Reagan signed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, increasing the gasoline tax by a nickel. Two cents of each nickel go into the Transit Account, still a primary source of funding for transit improvements.
Now, new legislation is “threatening to end the relationship between the federal government and the MTA,” after 30 years said MTA CEO Lhota. More than $1 billion in annual funding would be lost.
The bill, titled The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, was approved by the Republican majority Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 3. Representative Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) voted for the bill. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.) both voted against the bill.
Nadler said he’s concerned with safety, since repairs would be delayed if federal funding doesn’t come through, and the effect on planning for the future.
“You won’t be able to plan beyond one year,” said Nadler on Monday. “Mass transit will be a stepchild to other infrastructure because it’s not regarded as important as roads, tunnels, and bridges.”
Representative Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) said the motivation behind the bill was to provide more funding to the country’s roads, tunnels, and bridges. While agreeing that the infrastructure needs repair, he said the funds shouldn’t be taken from mass transit funding.
Representative Hanna’s office didn’t return a phone call. The committee could not be reached by press deadline.
According to a Feb. 3 press release, the bill “authorizes approximately $260 billion over five years to fund federal highway, transit, and safety programs, consistent with current funding levels.”
It will also reform current federal surface transportation programs through consolidating or eliminating about 70 programs out of more than 100, according to the release. It creates spending flexibility, no longer requiring to spend highway funding on non-highway activities (such as mass transit), though they may choose to fund such activities.
In the 29-24 committee vote, all the “yeas” were Republicans. All “nays,” except for Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), were Democrats.
The bill will move into the House later this month.