Transit Funding at Risk if Republicans Win, Top Democrat Warns
- Transportation panel head says about $29 billion at risk
- Transportation Department weighs fraud concerns
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A key House Democrat is warning Republicans may not fully fund the transit programs in last year’s infrastructure law if they win control of Congress.
Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is urging the Biden administration to dedicate as much transit funding as possible this year. The infrastructure law authorized a surge in funding for public transportation over five years, but Congress will have to appropriate much of it. About $29 billion could be at risk, DeFazio estimates.
“I’m worried what will happen if the House and Senate change,” DeFazio said at the American Public Transportation Association conference Monday. “In the short term, this year, we just got to get as much of that money dedicated as possible.”
Public transportation has faced headwinds from a major drop in ridership and worker shortages amid the pandemic. It was a sticking point in negotiations over the infrastructure bill last year, with some Republicans arguing transit didn’t need increased funding after an influx of pandemic aid.
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DeFazio said he is working with Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and other Transportation Department officials to get infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58) money sent out. The infrastructure law’s transit programs would be fully funded under the fiscal 2022 government spending bill (H.R. 2471) cleared by Congress last week.
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Administration officials want to deploy the funds with caution. Misspending and not moving “ambitiously enough” are Buttigieg’s two biggest fears as the department carries out the massive spending increases, he told the APTA conference Monday.
Although Buttigieg fears fraud and abuse, he said the Transportation Department “won’t let it happen” since it has checks and balances in place. Biden appointed Landrieu to oversee the implementation of the funds.
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