FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 30, 2008
SCHUMER, HALL: NEW OBAMA ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE COULD MEAN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR WESTCHESTER, ROCKLAND AND PUTNAM TO UPGRADE METRO-NORTH, HELP EASE MTA BUDGET CRUNCH
Obama Economic Stimulus Package Likely to Include Billions for Mass Transit Infrastructure in Addition to Highways, Roads and Bridges
Plan Would Kick Start Long Stalled Metro-North and Bus Projects Now in Danger of Getting Scrapped because of Budget Crunch - Upgrade Parking Structures, Stations, Trains, Buses, and Complete Green Initiatives
Senator to Push to Have At $20 Billion Dedicated to National Mass Transit Investments Included in Massive Economic Stimulus Package and For New York To Get Large Percentage
With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) facing an historic budget crunch and Westchester and Lower Hudson Valley commuters on edge about service cuts and the deterioration of the overall transit system, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman John Hall announced today that the new federal economic stimulus package could include millions of dollars in emergency funding to help the MTA maintain and upgrade its system and, at the same time, help ease its historic budget gap. Schumer and Hall said that they are pushing to have at least $20 billion in new funding devoted to investing in mass transit nationally included in the stimulus package, including funding for Metro-North Rail and Bus, that are now being drawn up by President-Elect Barack Obama’s transition team and Congressional leaders. Schumer and Hall said the money could be used to kick start long delayed bus and rail projects that are in danger of being shelved as the budget crisis has forced the MTA to cut back on capital projects including improvements to stations in Tarrytown, Croton-Harmon and Peekskill. While the primary goal of the stimulus package is to prime the pump of the ailing national economy, Schumer and Hall said the billions of dollars in new funding for mass transit would be a big win for
“The economic stimulus package would be a win-win-win for commuters and a shot in the arm for our aging mass transit system,” Schumer said. “First, the hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding would go directly to long-delayed projects in Westchester and the
"With ridership demand for Metro North continuing to grow, there is no shortage of projects that would improve the level of service, safety, and access on our commuter railways. The economic recovery program must include new investments in our railroads and other forms of mass transit, because those investments will create jobs, strengthen our local economy, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said U.S. Rep. John Hall
“Passing an economic recovery package will be our top priority when Congress reconvenes in January,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey. “By including funds for mass transit projects in this package, we can provide safe and convenient travel options for commuters, decrease congestion on our roads, and conserve energy. The economic recovery should also provide assistance for rebuilding roads and bridges and increasing the share of Medicaid paid by the federal government in order to relieve burdens on states and sustain healthcare for families in need.”
Due to the downturn in the national and global economy, the MTA is now facing an historic budget deficit of more than $1.2 billion that by law needs to be closed by the summer. To close the budget gap, the MTA this month approved a budget that includes significant service cuts, fare hikes, and canceling many of the authority’s capital programs including long-awaited infrastructure projects, from station upgrades, to purchasing new rail cars and buses, to installing new energy-efficient “green” technology across their transit systems.
To combat the national economic crisis, President-Elect Obama’s transition team along with Congressional leaders are drawing up a massive economic stimulus package that will include middle class tax cuts, direct fiscal aid to state governments, and tens of billions of dollars to upgrade America’s aging infrastructure all aimed at priming the pump of the national economy. Schumer and Hall said that the infrastructure piece of the stimulus is critical because this type of federal spending has the two-fold benefit of not only creating good paying jobs across the country, but also upgrading and modernizing dangerously antiquated pieces of infrastructure such as decades old roads, bridges, and sewer systems. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), for every $1 billion invested in federal highway and transit infrastructure, an estimated 47,500 jobs are created and an estimated $5.7 billion in economic activity is generated.
Schumer, a member of the Senate leadership, and Congressman Hall, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today announced they are going to push to include more than $20 billion in funding solely devoted to maintaining and upgrading mass transit systems. If the portion of stimulus dedicated to mass transit is $20 billion, the MTA would be in line to receive billions of dollars from this pot of funding. Historically,
Specifically, Schumer and Hall said the stimulus dollars would be spent on a wide-range of capital projects, from large ticket items such as upgrading entire stations and rebuilding railway tracks, to smaller ticket projects such as improving parking structures and installing new bus depots. In addition, the MTA has said it will target the funding toward “green projects” such as purchasing state of the art hybrid buses and retrofitting parts of the system to use renewable energy. There are dozens of critical projects in Westchester and the
The MTA has indicated that several high priority projects that have been delayed by the budget crunch could benefit from the new funding including power and substation improvements on the Harlem and
Below are other specific projects that may benefit.
· Station improvements at Tarrytown, Croton-Harmon and
· Power and substation improvements on Harlem and
· Purchase of new railcars, which could be built in upstate
· Parking Structure upgrades and increased parking capacity at North White Plains Train Station
· Improved Metro-North Station Facilities—ticket offices, waiting areas, rest rooms, concessions, customer service
· Priority parking repairs at Metro-North stations in Westchester, Putnam, and
· Port Jervis Double Tracking
· Purchase of new Hybrid buses
On top of the $20 billion devoted to capital improvements, Schumer and Hall today announced they are also going to push to have an additional $2 billion in direct fiscal aid for transit agencies included in the stimulus, which could be used by the MTA and other transit systems to cover the rapid increases in daily operating costs caused by the jump in demand. This type of funding would also go a long way toward easing MTA’s operating budget challenges.
Schumer and Hall also said that, along with being a smart economic investment, boosting mass transit in Westchester and across the lower
Though Congressional leaders are still drawing up the specific details of how the funding would be distributed, Schumer and Hall said that so-called “shovel ready projects” would receive priority in funding, meaning construction could begin shortly after the funding was made available. Schumer, along with Governor David Paterson, are drawing up a list of critical projects that would meet this criteria.
As part of the package, Schumer and Hall are going to push to expand the eligibility limit for projects from being able to be started 90 days after receiving funding to 180 days after receiving the federal money. According to the transportation officials, there aren’t enough projects across the country that meet the criteria and expanding the eligibility requirement will ensure that the full amount of funding set aside by Congress can be allocated.
According to MTA officials, station improvements to