News from the federal funding front for Metro projects

Here are three items that were sent this afternoon from Metro’s government relations staff to the Metro Board of Directors. The first two relate to the pursuit of federal funds to help build the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector projects:

Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Congressman Waxman Urge USDOT To Support Metro New Starts Projects

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-30) have co-authored a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urging that the Obama Administration move both of our New Starts Projects (Regional Connector and Westside Subway Extension) into the Fiscal Year 2012 New Starts Report. The correspondence also encourages Secretary LaHood to provide funds for both projects as they await approval from the USDOT to enter into Preliminary Engineering. In a related development, a draft omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2011 that is being circulated by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations includes a $6.5 million earmark for the Regional Connector and Westside Subway Extension and a $1.2 million earmark for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project. For your review, please find attached a copy of the letter sent to Secretary LaHood by Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Congressman Waxman.

New Starts Projects Await Permission To Enter Into Preliminary Engineering

We are hoping to receive correspondence shortly from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) permitting entry into Preliminary Engineering (PE) for our Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector projects. Traditionally, the FTA outlines issues in its PE approval letter that they would like the transit agency to address as the projects move forward in the Federal New Starts process. With respect to our projects, we expect the FTA letter to include matters related to “Risk Assessment”, as well as other topics. I look forward to keeping the Board apprised of this matter over the next several days.

United States Senate Adopts Tax Package That Includes Transit-Friendly Provisions

Today, the U.S. Senate voted to pass a tax package that now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives. In partnership with APTA and other transit stakeholders, we successfully worked with our two U.S. Senators to include provisions in the tax package that will continue the commuter tax benefit that was raised from $120 to $230 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year. This provision, without an extension, was slated to expire on December 31, 2010. Our agency also worked successfully to extend the alternative fuel tax credit. The elimination of the current alternative fuel tax credit of 50 cents per gasoline equivalent for CNG would have cost our agency over $1.5 million per month. We have argued that the extension of the alternative fuel tax credit serves to encourage and assist transit agencies, like ours, who maintain environmentally friendly bus fleets. With more than 2,300 buses powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Metro operates one of the largest alternative fuel transit fleets in the United States.