Transportation Thursdays

CONGRESS BRIEF
Congress is in session.
 

EPW Surface Reauthorization Bill and Markup Expected Next Week
The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee will introduce a 5-year, $287 billion highway title, the first step toward reauthorizing the current FAST Act. A markup of the bill is expected in Committee next week. Originally anticipated on August 1, the bill’s release could be moved earlier depending on when the Senate decides to adjourn for the extended August recess.
 
Though the details are not yet known, a few broader themes have emerged. We are expecting new programs on safety and resilience, which will apparently have formula and discretionary components. Funds for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which are currently 50% suballocated to local areas, would increase to 57.5% under the Senate bill. TAP funds will also have proportional obligation, which means states would be much more likely to spend these dollars than under current law. Other items include a alternative fuels corridor program, a large urbanized area congestion discretionary program, and a focus on cutting red tape. NARC will do a full analysis of relevant portions of the bill when it is released.
 
Budget Caps, Debt Limit Bill Expected to Pass House Today
House lawmakers have expressed confidence that a two-year budget and debt ceiling deal will pass in a vote later today. The 26-page bill would increase discretionary spending limits by nearly $324 billion over two years, compared to the strict current caps that were imposed under 2011 law. Lawmakers are eager to get budget caps in place in order to have an easier path for spending over the next two years. The Senate is also expected to consider the spending caps and debt limit bill before leaving for the annual August recess next week, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY).

ADMINISTRATION

Automakers Rebuff President Trump, Strike Fuel Efficiency Deal With California
Four automakers have struck a deal with California that will circumvent the administration’s current freeze of fuel efficiency standards. The automakers have agreed to produce vehicles that could average 50 miles per gallon by 2026, undercutting efforts by the Trump administration to freeze the standard at 37 mpg. The proposed rollback by the Trump administration has set up an impending clash with California, as the state has previously been allowed to create its own stricter standards on fuel efficiency. Honda, Volkswagen, Ford and BMW of North America represent 30% of the market, but this share could grow if other manufacturers choose to join the deal. The Trump administration argues that the freeze will make cars more affordable, yet critics argue that it will create inconsistency and greatly elevate levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
 
Department of Transportation Dinged for INFRA Grant Management
A new report by the Government Accountability Office says that DOT’s process for reviewing INFRA grants, which designate funding for bridge, highway, and rail projects across the country, lacked “consistency and transparency.” GAO says that it has been unable to determine the basis for around $2.3 billion in awards since the FAST Act was enacted in 2015. As well, they found that DOT only followed up with 42 of the 97 applicants that were missing information and did not detail why it followed up with specific applicants over others.

REGIONS

SEMCOG’s Green Infrastructure Program Awards $265,000 in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Funding
SEMCOG has awarded $265,000 in funding, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), to six Southeast Michigan communities for implementing green infrastructure projects. This program was developed to provide funding to implement green infrastructure best management practices that reduce storm water and nutrient runoff into Lake Erie.
 
COTA and Via Launch App-Based On-Demand Transit Service in Columbus Suburb
The new on-demand shared transit network COTA Plus is bringing dynamic rides to Grove City, a metropolitan area that is experiencing rapid growth an increased need for connections that expand beyond COTA’s existing fixed-transit system. In partnership with ride-share app VIA, the new program by COTA will allow multiple riders to share a vehicle, and direct nearby passengers to a “virtual bus stop” that will ensure efficient, but well-coordinated trips. The innovative app is particularly helpful for commuters, who can use the app in addition to one of fixed-route transit services for a point-to-point trip that is only a $3 fare. The program is part of Via’s larger efforts to help cities and transportation operators reengineer public transit in a way that expands public transit beyond a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules, instead creating a more dynamic and on-demand network.
 
Amtrak Announces Nonstop Trains from New York to DC
Starting in September, Amtrak riders will have access to trains that provide nonstop service between Washington, D.C. and New York City. The new route aims to make Amtrak more competitive, allowing users to cut their ride time down to 2 hours and 35 minutes, a full 15 minutes faster than the average Acela train traveling the same route. Amtrak will consider expanding the service or increasing the frequency based on the success of the initial train launch.

JOBS
View full list of jobs!

Transportation Planner/Engineer (2 Positions)
Posted: 7/25/2019
Wasatch Front Regional Council, Salt Lake City, UT

Grants Assistant
Posted: 7/24/2019
Emerald Coast Regional Council, Penasacola, FL

Community and Economic Development Manager
Posted: 7/24/2019
Emerald Coast Regional Council, Pensacola, FL

Grants Assistant
Posted: 7/24/2019
Emerald Coast Regional Council, Pensacola, FL

Public Relations Manager
Posted: 7/24/2019
Emerald Coast Regional Council, Pensacola, FL

OPPORTUNITIES
View full list opportunities!
 

Celebrating Parks and Recreation Month: Launching Efforts to Create and Equitable Access to Parks
Monday, July 29, 2019 – 2:00 PM ET
Join this free webinar hosted by the Safe Routes Partnership to learn how different communities have made improvements to bike paths and streets using a variety of solutions. The panelists will discuss the key planning implementation steps, potential collaborations, and sustainability ideas.
 
Deadline Extended for Applications to the ATCMTD Program Notice of Funding Opportunity
Monday, August 5
The U.S. Department of Transportation has extended the deadline for the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program Notice of Funding Opportunity to August 5, 2019. The currently available NOFO is the fourth annual solicitation for the program seeking applications from eligible entities to develop model deployment sites for installation and operation of advanced transportation technologies that improve safety, efficiency, and system performance.
 
Ridership Forecasting With STOPS for Transit Project Planning
September 10 – 12, 2019
Join the National Transit Institute (NTI) in St. Paul, MN for a course on forecasting transit ridership using FTA’s Simplified Trips-on-Project Software (STOPS) package. FTA developed the course to provide training on STOPS and its usefulness in transit project planning. The three-day course will cover how the software works, how to use it for individual projects and also how to use ridership forecasts to prepare a narrative about the benefits of transit projects.
 
FTA Office of Program Management Webinar on Grant Closeout Process. 
Session 1 August 7, 2019 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET and Session 2 August 8, 2019 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET
The FTA Office of Program Management will walk through a demonstration of a grant closeout in TrAMS, from a recipient perspective. There will be two sessions offered, both will cover identical content.  One August 7th and another August 8th. Registration is on a first-come, first serve basis and each session will be open to the first 500 participants.

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