After the Senate surprisingly turned back attempts to boost funds to upgrade security on U.S. subway and bus systems, transit advocates are regrouping to try again when House and Senate conferees meet on a final 2006 homeland security spending bill. But if transit backers do win a hike, it may be smaller than some proposals that the Senate rejected.
After the July 7 terrorist subway and bus bombings in London, transit proponents hoped Congress would increase security aid for U.S. systems. But three Senate floor amendments to add money for transit to a homeland security spending measure failed on July 14. The bill, which the Senate passed that day, 96-1, has $100 million for rail and transit grants, down $50 million from 2005.
Cathy Connor, Parsons Brinckerhoffs senior vice president for government affairs, says that "given the attacks in London...a week before these votes were taken, it was very surprising to see that that didnt resonate more with the senators."
The proposal that came closest to passage was one from Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) to add $1.2 billion to the bills transit aid. Because Shelby's plan exceeded the bills budget limit, he needed 60 votes to prevail. It fell seven short. Also defeated were a $1.4-billion boost for transit and other programs and a plan to shift $100 million to transit from aid to first responders.
The American Public Transportation Association was deeply disappointed at the votes. President William W. Millar says APTA will seek more for transit in the House-Senate conference on the homeland security bill. The version the House approved May 17 has $150 million for rail and transit security grants.