In December 2015, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a five (5) year authorization of highway, transit, safety, and rail programs. The FAST Act provided much-needed certainty of Federal funding levels for the five (5) years authorized by the Act. In the prior Federal authorization act, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), San Bernardino County agencies received approximately $180 million in congressional authorizations. Total FAST Act funding begins at an equal level to MAP-21 and increases approximately 15 percent over five (5) years.
The FAST Act renamed the Surface Transportation Program (STP) as the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. STP provides the most flexible Federal funding that may be used for projects on any Federal-aid highway, bridge projects on any public road, transit capital projects, and public bus terminals and facilities. The amount of STP funding apportioned to San Bernardino County under the FAST Act is estimated to remain at approximately $29 million per year with slight increases over the life of the Act.
These set aside funds may be used for a variety of smaller-scale transportation projects such as pedestrian and bicycle facilities, recreational trails, safe routes to school projects, community improvements such as historic preservation and vegetation management, and environmental mitigation related to storm water and habitat connectivity. Each State receives a share of the national total TAP funding. The FAST Act requires all TAP projects to be funded through a competitive process
In California, legislation creating the Active Transportation Program (ATP) defines the distribution and administration of TAP funds. This is a competitive program that is administered at both the State and regional level, with Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) being responsible for administering the regional program. Project sponsors can compete at both the State and regional level. SCAG has set programming targets for each county to ensure geographic equity in project selection. While SBCTA does not play a role in project selection, staff provides assistance to local agencies in accessing the funds through the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the California Transportation Commission (CTC).
CMAQ funds are authorized to fund transportation projects or programs that contribute to attainment or maintenance of ambient air quality standards. California implementing statutes authorize SBCTA to select and program CMAQ projects with input from SCAG, Caltrans, and air quality districts. CMAQ is available to areas that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (non-attainment areas), as well as former non-attainment areas. Funds are distributed based upon a formula that considers population by county and the severity of its ozone and carbon monoxide air quality problems within the non-attainment or maintenance area. CMAQ eligibility is conditional upon analyses showing that the project will reduce emissions of criteria pollutants. Activities typically eligible for CMAQ funding include High Occupancy Toll (HOT or express) lanes and High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, transit improvements, travel demand management strategies, traffic flow improvements such as signal synchronization, and public fleet conversions to cleaner fuels. The amount of CMAQ funding apportioned to San Bernardino County under the FAST Act is estimated to remain at approximately $31 million per year with slight increases over the life of the Act.
Congress annually appropriates formula funds to urban areas and to the State for rural areas for providing transit operating and capital assistance as authorized by the FAST Act. Federal formula apportionments to urban areas (San Bernardino Valley and the Victor Valley) are authorized under Title 49 U.S.C. Section 5307 and to rural areas under Section 5311. Section 5310 Funds are apportioned to States for support of transit services for seniors and persons with disabilities. As of the preparation of this budget Section 5307, Section 5311, and Section 5310 allocations for San Bernardino County have yet to be determined for Federal transit programs, but it is anticipated that they will see minimal increases based on increases received to date for San Bernardino County under these FTA FAST Act Programs. SBCTA must approve the use of the FTA Funds through approval of each operator’s biennial Short Range Transit Plan (SRTP) as well as ensure the approved projects are included the Federal Transportation Improvement Program (FTIP). Federal formula apportionments are authorized under Title 49 U.S.C Sections 5307, 5310, and 5311.
Under the FAST Act, Congress appropriates funds for transit capital investment under Section 5337 and Section 5339. Section 5337, SGR Program, provides financial assistance to public transit agencies that operate rail fixed-guideway and high-intensity motorbus systems for the maintenance, replacement, and rehabilitation of capital assets, along with the development and implementation of transit asset management plans. These funds reflect a commitment to ensuring that public transit operates safely, efficiently, reliably, and sustainably so that communities can offer balanced transportation choices that help to improve mobility, reduce congestion, and encourage economic development. Section 5339, Bus and Bus Facilities (BBF) Program, provides funding to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment and to construct bus-related facilities including technological changes or innovations to modify low or no emission vehicles or facilities. Funding is provided through formula allocations and competitive grants. A sub-program provides competitive grants for BBF Projects that support low and zero-emission vehicles. Apportionment levels are somewhat stable but not entirely predictable as they are dependent on the activity of local transit operators relative to the activity of other eligible transit operators.
NHFP and NHPP, two new freight-related initiatives created by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, provide for the first time a dedicated source of Federal funding for freight projects. NHFP is a formula fund program that will fund projects that contribute to the movement of freight on the National Highway Freight Network. The projects will be identified in a freight investment plan of a State Freight Plan. NHPP is a discretionary grant program and its eligible projects include highway system bridges that are not on the National Highway System (NHS) and may pay subsidy and administrative costs for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) projects. In California, legislation combined the Federal NHFP Funds and the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP) Funds approved under Senate Bill 1 (SB1) (see State Funding Sources below) into one competitive program.