WASHINGTON, DC – Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman, along with fourteen Senate colleagues, today introduced theTransit Emergency Relief Act, a new bill to improve the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Emergency Response (ER) Program. The bill would bring the FTA ER program into parity with the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) program that serves the same purpose for America’s highways and road infrastructure. The Transit Emergency Relief Act would provide a consistent funding source for FTA emergency response and grant flexibility to FTA in how funds are allocated so that transit emergencies can receive appropriate funding.
“The bottom line is that emergencies should be met with emergency level responses. The collapse and twelve day rebuild of I-95 showed what is possible when we get federal dollars out the door quickly,” said Sen. Fetterman. “Currently, FTA Emergency Response can take months, if not years, to get to transit agencies that need it. Because of this, when disaster strikes, agencies— which are often already strapped for cash—are forced to foot the bill and hope FTA can reimburse later. The Federal Emergency Relief Act is a simple fix to make a federal program work better and bring real relief to the transit operators that Pennsylvanians rely on.”
Sen. Fetterman is joined on the bill by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Jack Reed (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
FTA ER funds currently take months if not years get to transit operators after natural disasters and other emergencies that negatively impact transit infrastructure, which impedes transit agencies’ abilities to effectively respond to these emergencies. This is in large part because FTA ER funds are only authorized by Congress after disasters that affect transit infrastructure. In contrast, FHWA’s Emergency Relief program can get money where it needs to go mere days after disaster strikes because it has a standing $100 million funding authorization from the Highway Trust Fund.
Following the I-95 collapse in Philadelphia, for example, federal dollars through the FHWA Emergency Relief program helped one of the commonwealth’s most important highways get repaired in just 12 days: within four days of the collapse, Sen. Fetterman and his colleagues announced $3 million dollars would go to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to support highway repairs.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) saw a rapid 14% jump in ridership on their regional rail lines during the time that I-95 was closed. SEPTA responded by adding regional rail trips to keep up with the increased demand, moving people who would have otherwise overwhelmed surface roads.
“We thank Senator Fetterman for his leadership on the Transit Emergency Relief Act. With public transportation still struggling through the financial impact of the past several years, the last thing we need is financial uncertainty when a natural disaster strikes,” said Greg Regan, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.