December 14, 2015 | By: Brittney Kohler

This is the third in a series of summaries over the next few weeks on the contents of the newly-passed five-year federal surface transportation authorization law, Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The first part explored the law’s funding and the future fiscal health of the Highway Trust Fund. The second part described the highway program elements of the law. The final forthcoming section will focus on the policy changes to federal passenger rail programs.

The FAST Act provides $305 billion for highway, transit and railway programs. Of that, $60 billion is for transit, which represents an 18% increase in public transportation funding over the law’s five-year duration. Most of the percentage bump in transit investment will occur in the first year with the program seeing an immediate nine percent increase.

Here is what the transit investment levels look like over the life of the bill:

  • (Pre-FAST Act) Fiscal Year (FY) 2015: $10.7 billion
  • (Post-FAST Act) FY16: $11.8 billion
  • FY17: $12 billion
  • FY18: $12.2 billion
  • FY19: $12.4 billion
  • FY20: $12.6 billion

The three main federal transit programs are the Urbanized Area Formula Grants, State of Good Repair program, and Capital Investment Grants. The Urbanized Area Formula Grant funds planning, engineering design, and evaluation of transit projects, as well as capital investments. It currently receives $4.5 billion per year and will receive $5 billion annually by the end of the FAST Act. The State of Good Repair program funds are used for repairs and upgrades of urban rail and bus rapid transit systems that are at least seven years old. This program currently receives $2.2 billion per year and will receive $2.7 billion by the end of year five. The Capital Investment Program distributes funds for major transit capital investments, including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, commuter rail, and ferries. This program currently receives $1.9 billion per year which will increase to $2.3 billion annually by the end of the FAST Act.

In addition to the above changes, the FAST Act also:

  • Creates a new Bus and Bus Facility Discretionary grant program to address capital investment. This program is funded at $268 million in the first year, rising to $344 million in the last year. The program also includes a 10 percent rural set-aside and a cap that no more than 10 percent of all grant funds can be given to a single grantee;
  • Creates an expedited project delivery pilot program in the Capital Investment Grant program for projects with less than 25 percent federal funding and those which are supported through public-private partnerships;
  • Focuses on the need to address resilience in state and local planning by urging a reduction on the natural disaster vulnerability of existing transportation infrastructure;
  • Directs USDOT to review the safety standards and protocols used in public transportation. The Secretary will then evaluate the need to establish additional federal minimum public transit safety standards; and
  • Makes $199 million available to assist in funding the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) safety technology.

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