Why Leave Discretionary Federal Transit Administration Funding On The Table?


Dear Editor:

On April 6, 2022, the Federal Transit Administration published Federal Notice of Available Funding for Federal Fiscal Year 2022. The accompanying tables by funding programs make for very interesting reading. Governor Murphy, Senators Booker and Menendez, the Congressional delegation and other elected officials constantly complain that Washington shortchanges New Jersey. Yet none of them has ever said a word about the following.

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Why have the following recipients all been unsuccessful in applying for the following older FTA discretionary funded project allocations that are worth a total of $17,592,076 dollars? Under Table 14 Prior Year Unobligated Section 5307 Passenger Ferry Grant Program, (1) FY 2018 NJD2018-PFGP-010- City of Bayonne, ferry mooring platform deck and landside improvements – $656,800, (2) FY 2018 NJD2018-PFGP-013 Port Authority of NY&NJ – Commuter ferry vessel power and propulsion retrofit program – $2,480,000, (3) FY 2019 NJD2019-PFGP-009 New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection – Ferry slips, reconstruction upgrade at Liberty State Park – $5,900,000 and (4) FY 2020 NYJD2020-PFGP-010 City of South Amboy – Radford Ferry project – $5,300,000. Under Table 17 Prior Year Unobligated Section 5309 Low or No Emissions Program, (1) NJD2021-Bus LWNE-027-New Jersey Transit – Purchase battery-electric buses and associated infrastructure – $3,255,276.

Why have they failed to see funds obligated under approved grants? Have NJ Transit, Port Authority, NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection, City of Bayonne and City of South Amboy entered formal grants in FTA’s Transit Award Management System (known as “TrAMS”) used to award and manage federal grants? Have they addressed all of FTA’s concerns and issues as part of any ongoing grant review? These funds will eventually lapse and be lost.

As each year goes by, the project costs increase. The dollar value of the earmark does not. In the end, taxpayers and commuters are the losers. With a $30 trillion and growing long term federal deficit, every dollar counts. When will NJ Transit, Port Authority, NJ Environmental Protection, City of Bayonne and City of South Amboy make this a priority and secure their respective FTA earmarks?

Larry Penner

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office)