Federal transportation officials are moving quickly to release $2 billion in aid to cover recovery costs for transit systems in New Jersey, New York and other eastern states that suffered major damage from Superstorm Sandy.

The Federal Transit Administration announced on Feb. 4 that it will use $2 billion of the $10.9 billion it received in the recently enacted post-Sandy spending bill to reimburse local transit agencies for operating and capital costs they incurred after the massive storm struck in late October.

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said, “We are pledged to distribute the emergency relief funding responsibly and as quickly as possible to ensure that transit riders have the reliable service they need and deserve—and lay a strong foundation to mitigate the impact of such disasters in the future.”

FTA is under a tight schedule. The spending measure requires the agency to make available all $2 billion to local transit agencies in the Sandy-affected areas by March 30. To meet that target, FTA has set a March 8 deadline for local agencies to electronically submit their aid requests.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood mentioned the department's post-Sandy funding plan in a Feb. 4 interview with ENR. "We're not sitting around on our hands here," he said.

Michael Melaniphy, American Public Transportation Association president and CEO, praised FTA for starting the reimbursement process so soon after the Sandy aid bill was signed.

FTA spelled out the detailed requirements for agencies seeking a share of the $2 billion in a Federal Register notice published on Feb. 6. That notice actually was issued on Feb. 1.

Besides the immediate $2 billion, the FTA received $8.9 billion in the emergency funding bill for longer-term projects aimed at protecting rail and bus systems from future heavy storms.

The agency has set three priority project categories for the $2 billion. Category-one projects are those for which local transit agencies incurred and paid for expenses before Jan. 29, the day the disaster-relief spending bill was enacted.

Category-two projects include those under existing contractual commitments or those for which agencies issued a request for proposals or invitations to bid before Jan. 29.