Federal FAST Act
Congress created Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) such as the NJTPA, to give local elected officials a stronger role in guiding federal transportation investment and to ensure that these decisions are based on a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive (“3C”) planning process.
Congress first required the creation of MPOs in urbanized areas in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962, but granted them little power. In 1991, the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) greatly enhanced the authority of MPOs. ISTEA required MPO approval for allocating federal funding for many types of highway and transit projects (see MPO History publication).
Congress has continued to support planning by the 400 MPOs across the country in subsequent transportation reauthorization laws. The latest reauthorization is the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. Key provisions are below:
- Authorizes $305 billion over five years and is the first long-term transportation authorization act in more than a decade.
- The FAST Act contains no new dedicated revenue for transportation. In addition to ongoing revenues from the federal gas tax, it transfers $70 billion from the general fund to fill the gap between projected gas tax revenues and the amount authorized.
- The act provided a 5 percent increase to highway funding and an 8 percent increase to mass transit funding in FY 2016. Funding for highways then grows between 2.1 and 2.4 percent per year for FYs 2017-2020. Mass transit funding will grow about 2.1 percent per year over the same period.
- MPOs must consider “intermodal facilities that support intercity transportation, including intercity buses and intercity bus facilities, and commuter vanpool providers.”
- MPOs are to consider two new planning factors—system resiliency and reliability, and reduction/mitigation of stormwater impacts on transportation.
- A new freight program provides $4.5 billion over the life of the bill for Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects.
- Intelligent Transportation Systems are supported, including $100 million per year for ITS research and $60 million per year for a new Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program.
- Federal share for new transit projects (New Starts) is reduced to 60 percent. A new transit grant program was established to fund capital projects to reduce the backlog of state of good repair rail projects.
- Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Funding, which provides low-cost, federally backed financing for infrastructure projects, has been reduced from $1 billion to around $300 million over the life of the bill.
- The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program was not authorized in the FAST Act. The popular program now is at the mercy of the annual appropriations process.