New York Democratic members of Congress, transit unions and Metropolitan Transit Authority officials blasted Congressional Republicans Monday for proposing a bill that would siphon off more than $1 billion in mass transit funding for New York City.
The bill, scheduled for introduction in the House of Representatives next week, would take away dedicated mass transit funds allocated from the federal gas tax and replace them with an as-yet unfunded $40 billion lump sum payment. In addition, the bill would provide $2.7 billion for transportation funding as part of annual appropriations spread nationwide.
The bill would represent a $1.7 billion loss in capital funding to mass transit in New York City, making MTA and other mass transit authorities across the country, dependent on annual appropriations, a source of money that Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said is unreliable.
MTA has a $12.6 billion operating budget and has budgeted roughly $4.5 billion annually in capital projects until 2014. The money is used to pay for new buses, tracks, trains, the creation of the Second Avenue subway line and the reconstruction of subway stations. The MTA won't be able to fund these projects to their fullest if the regular flow of federal monies is tapered off, Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for MTA, said in an interview.
I challenge any Republican who represents any urban area with a mass transit system in the United States, any suburban area with a mass transit system in the United States to vote for this bill on the floor, Nadler said. This is a bill aimed like a dagger at the heart of cities and suburban areas.
New York City currently has 14 representatives, split 12 to 2 between Democrats and Republicans.
Roughly 8.5 million people use the mass transit system in the region. The MTA is the nation's largest mass transit system.
Joseph Lhota, the new CEO of the MTA, warned the bill over time could force it to raise transit fares to make up for lost money needed to fund improvements.
Who picks up the slack, is it the city? Eventually it's the taxpayer who uses these [mass transit] lines, said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y), who added the loss in capital funding will end up being a safety concern as tracks and platforms decay.
No matter what the funding level, the transit system's tracks will need repair. If the bill goes through, MTA will have to start prioritizing which projects it fund, officials said.
This will cripple mass transit in this country but particularly here in New York. said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)
Requests for interviews with staff of the House Committee on Transporation and Infrastructure, chaired by Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), were not returned.