Rep. DeFazio applauds Biden administration for changes to Capital Improvement Grant program

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U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, applauded the Biden administration Tuesday for rescinding guidance from the Trump administration in the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program.

The Trump guidance, put in place in June 2018, counted federal loans as part of the entire federal share of CIG projects, even though grantees were required to pay back the loans with interest.

“The Trump administration’s guidance that put up artificial barriers to critical transit projects is exactly where it should be—in the trash bin,” DeFazio said in a statement. “I applaud the Biden administration and DOT leaders for heeding my call to take swift action to repeal the rubbish guidance and instead restore the idea that the Federal government should be a partner—not an adversary—to communities that are marshalling their own resources to try and break ground on badly-needed infrastructure projects that move this country forward.”

In a letter from the FTA Acting Administrator Nuria Fernandez, the FTA said it would go back to previous guidance.

“FTA will rely on the statutory framework to ensure proposed projects have met the requirements of Federal public transportation law (49 U.S.C. § 5309), the regulation (the Major Capital Investment Projects Final Rule at 49 CFR Part 611), and the CIG Final Interim Policy Guidance published in June 2016,” the letter said.

DeFazio has been critical of the changes made to the CIG program since 2017. In July 2017, a Committee majority staff analysis of changes by the Trump administration found that the CIG program had significantly longer decision-making timeframes and higher local entity costs. The higher costs were from the lower federal share of projects, as well as added costs from delays on the federal government side.

DeFazio said at that time, the changes to the CIG program were a subversion of Congressional intent.

“The Capital Investment Grant program is one of the best tools the federal government has to help communities carry out projects that relieve congestion, reduce emissions, and give commuters safer and more reliable transit options. That’s why you see such broad support for the program in Congress from both sides of the aisle, and why Congress has repeatedly rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to eliminate the program,” Chair DeFazio said in a July 2019 press release. “It’s highly disappointing that the data show the Trump administration defying Congressional intent and being an obstacle, rather than a partner, to state and local agencies. These findings should be a wake-up call to FTA, the Department of Transportation, and the White House that it must drop its hostility toward transit and follow the law. Congress and the administration should be working together to improve transportation options for all Americans, not making it more difficult.”