Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act

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"On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (Pub. L. No. 114-94) into law—the first federal law in over a decade to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation infrastructure planning and investment. The FAST Act authorizes $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for highway, highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, rail, and research, technology, and statistics programs. The FAST Act maintains our focus on safety, keeps intact the established structure of the various highway-related programs we manage, continues efforts to streamline project delivery and, for the first time, provides a dedicated source of federal dollars for freight projects. With the enactment of the FAST Act, states and local governments are now moving forward with critical transportation projects with the confidence that they will have a federal partner over the long term."[1]


Transit implications

The FAST Act has a number of implications specifically for transit. The FTA offers the following summary of public transportation implications:[2]

Bus and Bus Facilities

FTA’s Bus and Bus Facilities program received an increase in funding of $268 million over FY15 levels, for a total of $696 million for FY16. This program helps transit agencies fund new buses, replace aging fleets and facilities, and adds a new eligibility to deploy low- or no-emission vehicles.

The FAST Act re-established a Bus Discretionary Program that allows states to apply for project-specific funding via a competitive process. Many of the grants are expected to fund replacements for aging fleets or facilities. In FY16, $268 million in funding will be available. Of that amount, $55 million has been designated for Low- or No- Emission Bus Deployment projects.

Also included in the Bus and Bus facilities program is a new pilot program for Cost-Effective Capital Investment, which encourages states to share bus funding resources among a partnership of recipients.

Procurement

Section 3019 of the FAST Act changed purchasing procedures to offer more purchasing options for public transportation systems of varying sizes. Under the Act, multiple states and providers may purchase capital assets through cooperative interstate procurements. The FAST Act also created a pilot program to allow nonprofit organizations to enter into cooperative procurement contracts. Under the new procurement procedures, transit agencies can lease equipment or facilities such as low- or no-emission components. Finally, the FAST Act established a Joint Procurement Clearinghouse to allow grantees to co-purchase rolling stock within a system that helps them identify procurement partners.

Buy America

The FAST ACT increases domestic percentage content requirements for Buy America through incremental increases. By FY2020, the Buy America requirement for rolling stock will total 70 percent. The FAST Act also makes important changes to the waiver denial process, requiring FTA to certify the availability and quality of the domestic sources for the product in the denied waiver.

State of Good Repair

With an estimated 40 percent of buses and 25 percent of U.S. rail transit assets considered to be in marginal or poor condition, helping transit agencies maintain bus and rail systems in a state of good repair remains an FTA priority. The FAST Act increased annual funding for FTA’s State of Good Repair (5337) program for rail from $2.1 billion to $2.5 billion.

Access and Mobility

New under the FAST Act, FTA will distribute funding under a pilot program for efforts that improve the coordination of transportation services that link with non-emergency medical care. Funding, intended for organizations that focus on coordinated transportation solutions, begins at $2 million in FY16 and increases incrementally each year, topping out at $3.5 million in FY19 and FY20.

Research

The FAST Act renamed FTA’s research program the Public Transportation Innovation Program and authorized it to fund demonstration, deployment and evaluation research projects. The research program features a new Low- and No-Emission Vehicle component testing program funded at $3 million a year.

Inclusion of Passenger Rail

The FAST Act was the first time Congress has included Amtrak's reauthorization in surface transportation legislation. This inclusion has allowed Amtrak to plan for new trainsets in 2021, station upgrades, and improvements to track capacity and ride quality.[3]

Further Reading

References

  1. FHWA: Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act or "FAST Act" https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/fastact/
  2. FTA. FAST Act https://www.transit.dot.gov/FAST Accessed 11 February 2017
  3. Amtrak. "Amtrak Invests $2.4 billion for Next-Gen High-Speed Trainsets and Infrastructure Upgrades." 26 August 2016.