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Metra Urges Action on Federal Transportation Authorization to Preserve 2012 Capital Projects

(March 28, 2012) - 
Metra today cautioned that a failure by Congress to extend the current federal transportation law and / or adopt new legislation would endanger multiple capital projects planned for 2012.
 
“If this bill is allowed to expire, Metra would not be able to fund capital projects contained in its 2012 Capital Program,” said Metra CEO Alex Clifford. “Any delay of these projects would have a negative affect on the region’s economy as Metra and the construction company’s charged with this work would be forced to put plans on hold,  delay material purchases, layoff workers and cut back on hiring plans. Therefore, we urge Congress to act by the end of this week to either pass new legislation or extend the current authorization.”

Background

The current federal transportation funding authorization bill, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), expired in September 2009 and has been extended multiple times as Congress attempts to work out new legislation. The current extension expires March 31.
 
The bill authorizes the collection of federal gasoline taxes which are used to fund the Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit.  Without a new or extended authorization, the federal government would be unable to collect an estimated $90 million a day in motor fuel taxes.
 
The Senate has passed a two-year, $109 billion transportation reauthorization bill; but thus far, the House has rejected this measure. House leaders decided to put off a vote on a bill this week that would extend the current legislation for three months because the bill lacked the votes needed to pass.

Metra Impact

“This is a critical issue for the nation’s transportation infrastructure,” Clifford said. “While our riders would not immediately see the effects of a lapse in the transportation authorization, Metra and the region’s transportation systems would fall even further behind in our efforts to rebuild and maintain our infrastructure. This would eventually impact our ability to provide the efficient, safe and reliable service that our riders count on.”
 
Metra’s 2012 Capital Program includes federal funds totaling $26.6 million for track projects, $37.8 million to maintain and rehabilitate its railcars and locomotives and $47.8 million to maintain and upgrade signal, electrical and communications equipment. Of this, $22.8 million in federal funds are dedicated in the 2012 Program to the development and implementation of a federally-mandated positive train control (PTC) system. Without new legislation or an extension, these projects would be put on hold. Metra may also be forced to suspend phase-funded projects, such as the replacement of 100-year-old bridges on the Union Pacific North Line on Chicago’s north side, without a new or extended transportation authorization.  The lack of a transportation authorization could also result in the need to furlough workers used for capital projects.

Metra’s Position

“Ideally, we would like the stability provided by the passage of a new federal transportation authorization, but short of that, an extension of the current legislation is an absolute necessity. Failure to do so would have devastating consequences for Metra, the entire transportation industry and the economy as a whole,” Clifford said. 
 
The Mass Transit Fund of the Highway Trust Fund has provided nearly 30 years of predictable and sustainable funding to our region.  Transit has an enormous impact on congestion, which impacts peoples’ lives, whether they ride the systems or not.  In the Chicago region alone, Metra carries more than 50 percent of the peak-hour trips in the busiest expressway corridors.  Without the service that Metra provides, 29 additional lanes of expressway would need to built and 13 10-story parking structures would need to be erected in downtown Chicago.
 
The Senate has passed a bipartisan compromise transportation bill that will provide level funding for mass transit and highway transportation projects for the next two years. Metra firmly believes that passage of this bill by the House is the best way to protect our nation and region’s investment in this vital infrastructure. 
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