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Queens Chronicle

Federal MTA funding at risk in Congress

Concern mounting over massive changes to mass transit formula

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Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:23 am, Mon Feb 27, 2012.

City and Queens officials are roundly panning a federal transportation bill that has Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan and Queens) praising Ronald Reagan and Bob Turner (R-Queens and Brooklyn) critical of a GOP plan.

The bill could strip $1.7 billion from the state and have a serious impact on city and suburban public transportation.

It would cut off access to funding from the federal Highway Trust Fund, which consists of national gasoline tax revenue. A share of the fund has been dedicated to transit agencies such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority since 1983.

The new proposal would force the MTA and transit systems nationwide to ask Congress on an annual basis for needed capital and infrastructure money.

Numerous officials lodged their protests at a press conference Monday at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

“The proposal would substitute a reliable source of funding with an undetermined and wholly unreliable commitment,” MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota said in a joint press statement issued by the office of Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens and the Bronx).

“The bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee illustrates once again how dysfunctional Congress has become,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

Lhota and Crowley said the shift to uncertain funding would devastate the MTA’s ability to plan and fund its long-term capital projects.

Crowley also said it would have an impact on transit- and non-transit-related jobs in the city and outlying areas.

Maloney, in a statement issued by her office, was far more blunt.

“The Republican transportation bill isn’t worth a warm bucket of asphalt,” she said. “The Republicans need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that keeps the dedicated funding stream for mass transit that we’ve had since the Reagan administration.”

Maloney said the MTA receives more than $1 billion every year from the fund, and that it is needed “to ensure that the MTA’s system continues to be safe and reliable for the long term.”

Gene Russianoff, spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, echoed Maloney’s sentiments. And he said the damage would not be limited to the MTA’s environs.

“The House bill turns its back on decades of better transit in New York and all around America,” he said.

Even Congressman Turner, who did not attend the press conference, was turning up the heat under his Republican colleagues.

In a letter to Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Turner expressed his concern about how the bill has been shaping up.

Turner wrote that the city has more than 1,000 bridges, 38 miles of elevated highways and 19,000 lane miles of roadways serving 8.5 million people and 45 Fortune 500 companies.

“As business and commerce capital of the world, New York is competing on behalf of the entire nation with places like London, Hong Kong and Tokyo,” Turner wrote.

He said the city’s ability to continue in all those roles “is dependent on maintaining and improving its unique public transportation network.”

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