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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cleveland RTA's Calabrese testifies before Congress

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Cleveland RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese will be on Capitol Hill Dec. 10 to report to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on the status of projects funded by from the American Resource and Recovery Act of 2009, and to urge additional funding for public transportation authorities across the country.

Public Transit Systems across the nation have already created many jobs through the award of shovel-ready infrastructure projects. At RTA, 109 contracts have already been awarded on 15 projects valued at $48.4 million. An additional $5.3 million worth of ARRA contracts are to be awarded next week. RTA's major ARRA projects include the construction of the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center and the rehabilitation of both the Puritas and E. 55th Street Rail Stations.
Nationally, more than $7.2 billion of public transit infrastructure projects have been obligated in an industry where for every $1 billion in investments, 30,000 jobs are created. That is why Calabrese will ask for investments in public transit to be integral in any future Jobs Bill.
Calabrese will also ask for the reauthorization of the Transportation Bill at the highest level of investment possible, and with added flexibility to address the operating needs of transit systems across the nation. In almost all cases, federal funds received by transit systems can only be used for capital projects and the purchase and maintenance of buses and trains, and cannot be used to cover expenses of daily transit service.
Calabrese believes, however, that the ability to treat fuel as a capitalized expense could be one possible solution for addressing budget shortfalls. "Fuel costs have a big impact on transit systems both large and small," said Calabrese. "If we had the ability to cover a portion of this large expense with federal funds, we would be able to close our funding gap."
RTA hopes additional funding can be forthcoming to help address a projected $14 million budget shortfall in 2010. Because the transit authority cannot end a year in a deficit, it has proposed a 12 percent cut in service to be implemented by the beginning of April 2010. Public hearings on the proposed changes will take place in January.

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