Sen. Gillibrand introduces Resilient Transit Act to bolster public transit systems against weather

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Looking to dispatch federal funds to fix many of the problems public transit systems face from extreme weather events, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) this week released the Resilient Transit Act of 2022.

The bill promises millions in federal funding for public transit agencies nationwide, eying ways to shore up their subways and other transit systems against flooding, storm surges, extreme heat, and other impacts from climate change. It would add an additional source of funding to the Federal Transit Administration’s State of Good Repair Grants Program, specifically targeting resilience improvement projects. It would provide $300 million annually between 2023 and 2026, offered through grants apportioned out through the existing State of Good Repair formula.

“Nearly ten years ago, Superstorm Sandy crippled the New York City subway, leaving millions of commuters without a reliable way to get around,” Gillibrand said at a subway press conference. “We’ve all seen videos of water cascading down subway stairs and commuters wading through stations with water up to their waist; we can’t wait until the next devastating storm to fix the weaknesses in our transit system that these storms have exposed. That’s why today I’m releasing the Resilient Transit Act. This bill will help the MTA and transit agencies across the country make proactive upgrades to subways, trains, buses, and ferries so that they can recover quickly from severe weather events and natural disasters and continue to provide the services millions rely on each day. New Yorkers deserve a transit system that can weather any storm, and today we are one step closer to making that a reality.”

Superstorm Sandy struck in 2012, causing an estimated $5 billion of damage to the New York City subway system and weeks-long shutdowns of various stations and lines. Amtrak routes were also hit. While the city has escaped another Sandy so far, several subway stations have also faced flooding incidents simply from heavy rainfall in the years since.

Under the bill as proposed, recipients would be able to use funds to finance stand-alone resilience improvement projects or resilience improvement components of larger projects. In addition to subways and rail lines, other eligible entities would be buses, ferries, and street cars.

The bill is being backed at the national level by organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Riders Alliance, and the Regional Plan Association, and locally by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). It has been co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), while a parallel effort in the House is being led by U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY).