Schumer, Donovan Launch Bipartisan Push to Restore Federal Transportation Funding Cuts
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Dan Donovan today launched a bipartisan effort to restore mass transit funding cuts passed by the House of Representatives. As a part of the transportation bill passed by the House, an amendment was agreed to that completely defunds a critical mass transit program called the 5340 Program or the High Density States program. This program provides New York and six other high-density states as well as the District of Columbia with millions in additional mass transit funding annually. Specifically, New York and New Jersey combined receive roughly $140 million each year. Schumer and Donovan said that while the transportation bill that passed the Senate protects these funds, the elimination of these funds that was included in the House bill would be devastating for New York, including Staten Island. Schumer and Donovan are urging their colleagues to reverse the cuts and quickly restore this much-needed funding for New York as the House and Senate negotiate the differences between their two bills in conference over the next few weeks, before a final bill is passed into law. Schumer is on the Conference Committee for this bill in the Senate.
New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley received a combined $71,725,257 in federal funding, through the MTA, under the High Density States program in 2014 (this total includes some limited service to other areas within the UAZ including CT, and NJ). Specifically on Staten Island, these cuts could affect the MTA bus, and Staten Island Railroad. In addition, NYC DOT received $4,852,420 under the High Density States Program in 2014. On Staten Island, these cuts could affect the Staten Island Ferry.
“The 5340 program provides critical transportation funding to New York State each year and is vital to ensuring our transit agencies, like the MTA and NYCDOT, have the resources they need to operate and keep passengers safe,” said Schumer. “This proposed cut in funding would deal a devastating blow to transit agencies, particularly at a time when New York’s infrastructure is crumbling and in need of additional funding. That is why I am going to do everything in my power to reverse these cuts and restore the program, which has been a lifeline for New York, including those on Staten Island, in years past and should continue to be for years to come.”
Congressman Donovan said, "The transportation crisis in Staten Island and South Brooklyn requires creative solutions and the resources necessary to implement them. Staten Islanders face some of the longest commute times in the country, and the situation isn't much better in South Brooklyn. The proposed mass transit cuts are unacceptable, and the House negotiators know my position. Our city is an economic engine for the region and the country, and I will continue fighting for what we deserve."
In 2005, the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA) was signed into law, which established the Growing States and High Density States Formula Program (49 U.S.C. 5340), or “5340 funding.” According to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), it was created to apportion additional funds to the some of the most congested and transit-dependent Urbanized Areas (UZAs) in the country, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia.
The House of Representatives adopted into its six-year transportation bill – the Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform (STRRA) Act – an amendment that would eliminate the 5340 program and instead further increase funding for a competitive bus grant program that would be disadvantageous to New York. Schumer and Donovan said that while increasing the funding for discretionary programs like the bus program is widely supported, doing so by stripping funding away from Northeast states, whose transit systems move millions of people and contribute significantly to the national economy, is the wrong approach to take.
The House bill is funded at the existing baseline, meaning it provides only a slight increase for inflation. The Senate transportation bill includes a 10 percent increase. Schumer and Donovan explained that the House version’s tepid increase in overall appropriations, coupled with the fact that funding has been slashed from the High Density States program and diverted into a separate fund, will result in less real dollars for New York State next year should the House Bill become law. This would have a major impact on transit agencies in New York, like the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) that services Staten Island. The loss of this funding could have an indirect impact on other forms of transportation including highway and bridge funding. For example, Schumer said, if a smaller mass transit agency in Upstate New York runs into financial trouble because of the loss of this funding and needs to be made whole by the state, New York State might have to reduce the amount of money they spend in other transportation programs to make up for the loss.
Schumer and Donovan are pledging to fight in Congress to immediately restore this funding for the 5340 High Density States program. Schumer and Donovan said these seven states and the District of Columbia could see funding cut by roughly $1.6 billion over the next six years if this funding is not restored in the final bill that is passed by both the House and Senate. Some transit agencies would see their overall apportionments cut by nearly one-third. Schumer and Donovan explained that because this funding is calculated based on Urbanized Areas rather than states, New York and New Jersey – which are coupled together in this funding apportionment – could lose an estimated $140 million each year. After receiving this funding, the two states then issue a memorandum of understanding (MOU) stating how this funding will be split up. Specifically, New York State stands to lose the roughly $100 million of this $140 million it was set to receive in additional federal transit dollars if this program is not restored at full funding.
Schumer and Donovan said these urbanized areas, small and large, across New York State face unparalleled congestion that cannot be addressed by building new highway infrastructure alone, meaning areas Upstate and Downstate will be negatively impacted if this funding is not restored. In 2014, New York State received $94,405,053 from the FTA’s Section 5340 High Density States program.