Trump Finally Releasing Transit Cash
The Trump Administration’s bureaucratic war with transit appears to be winding down.
The White House has finally said it would release $281 million for five already-approved transit projects. The money will underwrite part of the following projects: Minneapolis’ Orange line bus rapid transit ($74 million), Los Angeles’ Purple Line extension ($100 million), San Diego’s light rail ($80 million), bus platform expansion in Dallas ($2 million), and the Tempe Streetcar project ($25 million), the Federal Transit Administration announced.
Steve Davis, spokesperson for Smart Growth America, said the announcements were just promises of funding — not actual full funding grant agreements. Even so it was encouraging.
“They’re clearly feeling a little bit of the heat from somewhere,” he said. “They’re responding. I think that’s good.”
Trump’s Federal Transit Administration had come under fire for hoarding the $2.6 billion in funds Congress sent it for new transit projects. Early in his administration, Trump had called for killing the federal programs — “New Starts” and “Small Starts” — that support new transit construction.
As of July, the Trump FTA had allocated just half of the Congressional money. The latest project announcements come from funding from fiscal year 2018, which ended in September.
The delays were so bad, members of Congress had language inserted in the budget requiring FTA to disburse 85 percent of the Fiscal Year 2018 funding by Dec. 31, 2019. With the latest announcements, however, FTA reports it has issued the full $2.6 billion from fiscal year 2018. The agency says it has now allocated $4.8 billion since Trump took office.
Still the delays have been harmful to transit projects. Los Angeles, for example, which has been waiting on funding for years, is proceeding with construction of the Purple Line extension using local dollars. The project has received a “no prejudice” for $491 in expected federal money, which in past administrations has been all but a guarantee of federal funding.
“Minnesota had construction bids expiring. LA did, too,” said Davis. “They’re on a serious tight timeline for the  Olympics.”
Davis said he expects more funding announcement in January when Democrats take over the House.
“I think that’s part of the impetus,” for the Trump funding announcement, Davis said. “When the spotlight starts shining even more brightly in January, they’ve [can say they’ve] made some progress.”