Shelby's $1.2-billion amendment
fell seven votes short.

In a blow to transit advocates, the Senate has turned back proposals to increase fiscal 2006 funding to bolster security on the nation's mass transportation systems.

After the July 7 terrorist bombings on London's rail and bus network, transit proponents hoped Congress would increase federal security aid for subways and buses. But three Senate floor amendments to add money for transit to a pending 2006 Dept. of Homeland Security appropriations measure failed. The overall spending measure, which the Senate passed July 14 on a 96-1 vote, has $100 million for rail and transit security grants, down $50 million from 2005.

Of the three proposals, the one that came closest to passage was an amendment from Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), which would have increased the underlying bill's transit allocation by $1.2 billion. That $1.2 billion included $790 million for "capital improvement grants," Shelby said. Because Shelby's proposed increase would have exceeded the bill's budget ceiling, he needed 60 votes to ensure passage, but when votes were tallied on July 14, he fell seven short of that mark.

Also defeated were a $1.4-billion increase for transit and other security programs from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and a proposal from Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to shift $100 million to transit from aid to state and local first responders. Gregg had argued against the Shelby amendment.

The American Public Transportation Association was deeply disappointed at the Senate votes, said President William W. Millar. "At a time when transit is a target of terrorist activity," he said, "APTA had hoped that the Senate would vote to protect the lives of America's transit riders by adequately funding transit security."

Millar said APTA will push to increase funding for transit when House and Senate negotiators meet to work out a final homeland security spending bill. The version that the House approved on May 17 has $150 million in rail and transit security grants.

(Photo by Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee)