Warner proposals on transit safety, development incorporated into Senate bill

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined colleagues on both sides of the aisle in passing legislation out of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs to make improvements to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s public transportation programs.

The legislation included new safety standards championed by Sen. Warner in the wake of a fatal 2009 Metro accident, and incorporates Senator Warner’s legislation authorizing grants for localities to promote transit-oriented development.

The bill passed on Thursday includes critical provisions aimed at establishing minimum performance standards for public transportation systems, strengthening enforcement powers and providing states with resources for training and oversight.  It draws on legislation that Senator Warner introduced earlier this Congress with Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

“The tragic June 2009 Metro accident exposed  some troubling facts about the safety of our transit systems that this legislation attempts to address,”  Sen. Warner said. “Public transportation on rail carries 14 million daily riders nationwide, yet it remains the only mode of transportation without federal safety standards, oversight or enforcement.”

In addition to the transit safety provisions, the legislation authorizes $20 million a year for planning grants to allow localities to develop growth plans focused on transit-oriented development.  The grant program is based on legislation recently introduced by Sens. Warner and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

“Demand for housing near transit in walkable, mixed-use communities is projected to double over the next 20 years, to 15.2 million households by 2030,” Sen. Warner said. “With big projects like Rail to Dulles going in and localities across Virginia looking for smarter and more rational ways to manage grow, these planning grants should help us plan better over the long-term and better serve our commuters, residents and businesses.”

In addition, the Federal Public Transportation Act reauthorizes federal public transportation programs at current funding levels for two fiscal years.  It also streamlines the project delivery process for construction of new transit projects, eliminates earmarks for federal transit programs and establishes a State of Good Repair program to assist transit systems address growing backlogs of maintenance needs.

The Federal Public Transportation Act of 2012 is expected to be considered by the full Senate in the coming months.


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