Capital Region

Fed cuts threaten CDTA plans

Local projects likely wouldn't get funded immediately, even without proposed budget cuts
SCCC students hop on the CDTA buses in front of Liberty Park in downtown Schenectady.
SCCC students hop on the CDTA buses in front of Liberty Park in downtown Schenectady.

CAPITAL REGION — Proposed federal budget cuts are endangering plans to expand the Capital District Transportation Authority‘s bus rapid transit system, CDTA CEO Carm Basile said Monday.

The transit authority’s most-popular route is the BusPlus BRT line between Albany and Schenectady, and planning has been underway for five years for new BRT lines between downtown Albany and Crossgates Mall, as well as between Troy and downtown Albany.

The Trump administration’s proposed 2019 federal transportation budget, however, would eliminate funding for all new mass transit capital improvements — a move bus and rail transit advocates are fighting in the halls of Congress.

“Our signature product is now bus rapid transit,” Basile said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., where the American Public Transit Association is holding its annual legislative conference this week. “Cuts to these federal programs will immediately put the brakes on that.”

Basile was among several speakers, including transit agency leaders from Seattle, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver and Washington, D.C., who said the proposed elimination of the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grants would do significant harm. All those systems have been planning investments they’d like to see supported with federal dollars.

The proposed FTA fiscal 2019 budget, which Congress could consider as early as this week, would continue funding for some projects that are underway but would eliminate it for new projects.

“Future investments in new transit projects should be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these local projects,” states an FTA budget summary.

CDTA has been hoping to have 80 percent of its new BRT projects funded by the federal government. It has sought $87.1 million in funding for the Albany-Crossgates line, which would also serve the University at Albany; it also has sought $32.7 million for the Troy-Albany line.

The FTA has given both a “medium” project rating, indicating those projects are unlikely to receive immediate funding.

“I think we’re losing momentum as projects sit in line,” Basile said. “We have two medium ratings; we’re ready to go, but there is not enough money available locally to advance them. There’s an expectation when we announce these things that they’re going to happen.”

The new BRT lines have been championed by Sen. Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., but Schumer has a strained relationship with Trump.

CDTA, which carried 17 million riders in 2016-17, was named the 2017 medium-sized “Outstanding Public Transportation Achievement Award” winner by the American Public Transit Association. CDTA officials have said their new route development has contributed to a 25 percent ridership increase over five years.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.


Categories: News, Schenectady County

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