Why Leave Federal Transit Administration Discretionary Dollars On The Table?

Dear Editor:

On January 19, 2021, the Federal Transit Administration published Federal Notice of Available Funding for Federal Fiscal Year 2021. FY 2018. Under Table 14 Prior Year Unobligated Section 5307 Passenger Ferry Grant Program, there is (1) NJD2018-PFGP-010- City of Bayonne, ferry moring platform deck and landside improvements – $656,800; (2) NJD2018-PFGP-013 Port Authority of NY&NJ – Commuter ferry vessel power and propulsion retrofit program – $2,480,000, (4) NJD2019-PFGP-009 New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection – Ferry slips, reconstruction upgrade at Liberty State Park – $5,900,000 and (4) FY 2020 NJD2020-PFGP-010 City of South Amboy – Radford Ferry project – $5,300,000.

Why have the City of Bayonne, Port Authority, NJ Department of Environmental Protection and City of South Amboy all been unsuccessful in securing these funds under an approved obligated FTA grant?

Did any of them enter a formal grant in FTA’s Transit Award Management System (known as “TrAMS”) used to award and manage federal grants?. If so, are there still any outstanding FTA’s concerns and issues that need to be resolved as part of any ongoing grant review? Without a formal grant obligation, these funds will eventually lapse and be lost.

NJ Transit and Port Authority are in intense competition against transit agencies from other cities and states around the nation. It hurts both when the City of Bayonne, Port Authority, NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection and City of South Amboy leaves these discretionary dollars on the table year after year. The NJ Congressional delegation loses credibility when lobbying for more transit dollars.

There is no incentive for Washington to approve additional discretionary transit dollars. As each year goes by, the project cost also tends to increase. The dollar value of the earmark does not. In the end, taxpayers, commuters and transit employees are the losers. Both NJ Transit and Port Authority face short and long term capital and operating shortfalls in the billions. This will only grow worse with COVID-19. When will the City of Bayonne, Port Authority, NJ Department of Environmental Protection and City of South Amboy make this a priority and secure these funds under an approved FTA grant?.

Sincerely,

Larry Penner

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review and approval of billions in grants to NJ Transit and NY MTA which funded capital bus, subway and commuter rail improvement projects and programs along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ.)