Transportation Thursdays

CONGRESS BRIEF
Congress is in session.
 
‘Shutdown of Travel’ Seen as White House, Congress Plan Rescues
Wednesday evening brought a new wave of announcements from all corners of the transportation sector as airports warned of defaults on bonds, automakers suspended operations, and the administration and Congress readied another round of stimulus spending. A leaked story from the Treasury Department claimed that the department plans to spend $50 billion in loan relief for airlines, with that money being used for both passenger and cargo airlines. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted last week that any aid to airlines would come through loans, though Airlines for America, an industry group, has also asked for immediate aid in the form of grants. The Treasury memo also included $150 billion in loans and loan guarantees for other impacted industries — a number that matched a request by the U.S. Travel Association to help secure its industry in the wake of the pandemic.

Barrasso Pushes for Highway Measure in Stimulus Legislation
As Congress prepares a plan to dull the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, two senators are pushing for the surface transportation bill to be included in a stimulus package. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) wants congressional relief efforts to include his bill (S. 2302), which would authorize $287 billion in spending on roads and bridges over five years. Barrasso wants to attach the measure to a subsequent stimulus bill, not the House-passed measure that was revised on Monday. Barrasso’s bill would increase federal highway spending by around 27 percent. The bipartisan bill would speed approval of infrastructure projects and authorize funds for improving road safety, aiming to make communities more resilient to climate change. While the EPW Committee advanced the bill in July, the measure hasn’t been marked up in other committees of jurisdiction, including the Finance Committee.
ADMINISTRATION

Trump Signs Coronavirus Aid Package, With More to Come
President Trump signed a multibillion-dollar aid package Wednesday evening designed to help those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing paid sick leave, free diagnostic testing and expanded food aid. The measure is the second of several packages Congress plans to pass to help bolster the health care sector and reduce the impact of the virus that has brought wide sectors of the economy to a halt. It passed the Senate just hours earlier in a 90-8 vote. McConnell reiterated that he plans to keep the Senate in session, possibly during weekends, to draft and pass a third package to combat the health care and economic impacts of the pandemic. Work on that package has been ongoing for days with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposing a $1 trillion package to the Senate GOP on Tuesday. The Office of Management and Budget has also sent Congress a $45.8 billion supplemental spending request to increase funding for dozens of federal agencies. (More details below)
 
Trump Administration Seeks $45.8 Billion in Extra Government Funding Amid Coronavirus
The Trump administration has requested an additional $45.8 billion from Congress to shore up U.S. agencies amid the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, a White House spokesman said on Wednesday. The supplemental funding request, sent to U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday night, would give billions more to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Veterans Administration (VA) and the Defense Department. The request is separate from the administration’s proposed $1 trillion stimulus package to address the outbreak’s economic fallout. Additional amounts are below:

  • Veterans Administration (VA) $13.1 billion.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) $1.3 billion.
  • $500 million for U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak
  • $800 million to fund up to 13 migrant quarantine facilities along the U.S.-Mexican border
FTA Announces Expanded Eligibility of Federal Assistance Under FTA’s Emergency Relief Program
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that expanded eligibility of federal assistance is available under FTA’s Emergency Relief Program to help transit agencies respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) in states where the Governor has declared an emergency. This includes allowing  all transit providers in states where the Governor has declared an emergency related to COVID-19 to use their federal formula funds for operating expenses in addition to capital expenses and permits operating expenses to be covered at an 80 percent federal share rather than 50 percent. FTA recently held a conference call with transit stakeholders and posted Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on its web site.
 
The Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office Releases a New Strategic Plan for the First Half of the New Decade
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS-JPO) released a new strategic plan that describes its strategies and goals for the first half of the new decade. For the last three decades, ITS-JPO has fostered research and development in technology and evaluation of each generation of ITS. These efforts have helped to save lives, improve access and mobility, and increase economic productivity. With a new strategic plan, ITS-JPO is now looking ahead to the next 5 years of transportation innovation. The ITS-JPO Strategic Plan 2020–2025 describes the vision, mission, and strategies that will help the U.S. Department of Transportation achieve its key technology research and development priorities and ensure that our nation has the safest, most efficient and modern transportation system.
OTHER NEWS

NSTA Requests States Continue Funding Student Transportation Amid COVID-19 Closures
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) sent letters to the governors of all 50 states and to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday asking for mandated action requiring school districts to fund transportation programs despite closing school in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. According to reporting by Education Week, as of Tuesday at noon Eastern time, 38 states had closed at least 74,000 school campuses to 38.8 million schoolchildren. That equates to over three-quarters of all schools and public-school students across the U.S. NSTA added that continuity for not only students but also school transportation employees nationwide is paramount during the school closures. That means ensuring all school bus operations must continue so workers get paid. Despite the closures, school bus operations have continued nationwide. For example, school bus operations have shifted to serve as mobile food banks for students and families in need. NSTA also pointed out the need to take a “holistic approach” to utilizing routing knowledge and technology to assist with those efforts.

REGIONS
Maryland Transportation, Airport Restricted Due to Coronavirus
In an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus in the state of Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan announced Thursday that all public transportation would be shut down to all except essential workers. Hogan also directed the Maryland Department of Transportation to restrict access to the BWI terminal to only ticketed passengers and airport employees. The shut down comes after a Maryland man in his 60s with an underlying health condition died as a result of the virus. Positive cases of the virus in Maryland topped 100 on Thursday, including a 5-year-old girl who tested positive.
 
Eastgate, Port Authority, YSU, Others Consider Federal Transportation Grant
In an effort to capitalize on some of the energy next-gen technology many local development officials in the Youngstown region including the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Western Reserve Port Authority, Youngtown Warren Regional Chamber, the Ohio Turnpike, Youngstown State University, and several private partnerships plan to ask for federal help to transform part of state Route 45 into a smart corridor. The request would be in the realm of $18 million to $20 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Developments) program. The project will help support self-driving shuttles and also incorporate bicycle and pedestrian facilities, green infrastructure, streetscaping and wayfinding to connect major destinations in the downtown area.
JOBS
View full list of jobs!

Chief Financial Officer
Posted 3/17/2020
Wasatch Front Regional Council, Salt Lake City, UT

Planner, Senior, Transportation Access and Mobility Group/Center for Livable Communities
Posted 3/17/2020
Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta, GA

Planning Director
Posted 3/16/2020
Town of Wendell, Wake County, NC

Executive Director
Posted 3/16/2020
Flint Hills Regional Council, Ogden, KS

Regional Transportation Planner
Posted 3/16/2020
Greater Portland Council of Governments, Portland, ME

OPPORTUNITIES
View full list opportunities!

FTA Announces $28.22 Million for Montana RTS Corridor in El Paso, Texas
The Federal Transit Administration announced a $28.22 million grant to the City of El Paso for the Montana Rapid Transit Service (RTS) Corridor project. The project will provide faster, more reliable transit service to important destinations in downtown El Paso, the El Paso International Airport, and the Far East Transfer Center. The Montana RTS Corridor project is a 16.8-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service operating along the Montana Avenue Corridor. The total project cost is $49.2 million with $28.22 million requested through FTA’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program, which provides funding for major transit infrastructure projects nationwide. 
 
FTA Announces $20.3 Million in Grants to Improve Transportation Access Through Innovative Technologies
The Federal Transit Administration announced approximately $20.3 million in grant selections through the Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) program. IMI supports projects that use innovative technologies and processes to improve access to public transportation, increase public transportation efficiency, and enhance the overall rider experience. Twenty-five projects in 23 states will receive funding under the program. The projects will advance mobility through creative partnerships and emerging technologies. Combining public and private transportation assets and strategies can greatly increase access to mobility for everyone.

FTA’s PTASP TAC Biweekly Message
The Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) has released its biweekly message. This week’s updates focus on Employee Safety Reporting Programs (ESRPs). Other featured resources include the Sample Small Public Transportation Provider Agency Safety Plan (ASP), the Safety Management Policy Fact Sheet, and FTA’s presentation on ESRPs. Register now for upcoming March PTASP webinars, review featured Q&A, engage in the PTASP Community of Practice, and more.
 
USC on Modeling COVID-19 in REMI
Thursday, March 19 – 2:00 PM ET
This presentation uses a general influenza outbreak scenario to explore the basic considerations of simulating epidemics and display how to model the case for a severe health threat in which the United States government would consider a partial or complete border closure to all goods and people.
 
Funding Opportunity: HOPE Program Webinar
Wednesday March 25 – 2:00 PM ET
FTA is hosting this webinar to provide information about FTA’s Helping to Obtain Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Program. Join FTA program staff to learn more about this competitive funding opportunity including application eligibility, evaluation criteria, and the application submission process. FTA issued the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the HOPE program on March 3, 2020, and the deadline for applying is May 4, 2020.
 
The U.S. Department of Transportation Will Host a Second Webinar Exploring Complete Trip Deployment Scenarios
Thursday, March 26 – 1:00 PM
The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) is hosting a series of webinars on the Complete Trip – ITS4US Deployment Program to assist prospective deployers and partners. This webinar is the fifth in an on-going webinar series to assist prospective deployers and partners for the Complete Trip – ITS4US Deployment Program by presenting two more hypothetical examples of communities applying the Complete Trip deployment concept development process, including identification of transportation challenges, partnership building, and concept development of integrated technology solutions.

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