Transportation legislation passes House and Senate

LANCASTER – The Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) is applauding legislators today (July 3) for their passage of surface transportation legislation.  The bill, which is now on its way to the President’s office for a signature, provides funding for the nation’s transportation programs at largely current levels through 2014.

The final conference agreement allows for a limited increase for federal transit programs, providing approximately $10.6 billion in funding for the 2013 fiscal year and $10.7 billion for the 2014 fiscal year.

AVTA’s Executive Director Julie Austin said she is relieved to have the question of transportation funding finally settled in Congress after nearly two years of debate.

“It’s very difficult to plan for the future with so much uncertainty about funding levels,” said Austin in a news release. “We can now move forward with confidence there will be adequate funding to support our budget projections.”

The legislation also includes language that provides small transit agencies like AVTA with more flexibility to spend federal dollars on operating expenses.

Currently, transit systems in urbanized areas with populations greater than 200,000 are generally prohibited from using capital funding to cover operating needs.  The new provision allows smaller transit systems to utilize a portion of their 5307 funding for operating assistance if they operate fewer than 100 buses during peak travel times, even if they serve a population greater than 200,000.

AVTA operates a fleet of 68 buses and will be able to take advantage of this change in the law.

“This is very exciting for AVTA,” said Austin, “Our operating budget is extremely lean.   Having the option to use a portion of our federal formula funds to cover operating expenses will help us cover any potential budget shortfalls moving into the future.”

Friday’s approval of the conference bill, dubbed MAP-12 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) provides dedicated funding for the next 27 months.

Since 1983, nearly half of all public transportation funding has been provided from the federal motor fuels tax dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund.

AVTA serves a population of more than 400,000 residents in the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale as well as the unincorporated portions of northern Los Angeles County. Its total service area covers 1,200 square miles and it is bounded by the Kern County line to the north, the San Bernardino County line to the east, the Angeles National Forest to the south, and Interstate 5 to the West.

(Information via press release from the Antelope Valley Transit Authority.)