WASHINGTON, DC – Following a push by U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD), and other leading Democrats from the Northeast corridor, the joint House and Senate Transportation Conference has agreed to include the full restoration of funding to the critical 5340 High Density States Program in the final transportation bill set to be voted on later this week.

“I am pleased we were able to reclaim RIPTA’s fair share of funding and save critical mass-transit dollars for high density states like Rhode Island.  This loss of funding would have had led to more gridlock and tougher commutes and had a devastating impact on our public transportation system.  I am pleased we were not only able to prevent the House’s short-sighted cuts from taking hold, but actually increase funding for mass-transit.  Public transportation helps drive our economy.  With more Rhode Islanders depending on public transportation, we must ensure RIPTA has the resources to provide safe, efficient, and reliable service.”

Senator Reed worked to remove language from the final bill that was included in the previous House-passed bill that would have meant a cut in federal funding to the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) of over $8.5 million a year.  Reed and fellow Democrats from the Northeast corridor successfully removed the Herrera-Beutler Amendment to the surface transportation bill, which would have eliminated essential federal formula funding for Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.  These seven states provide over half of all public transportation trips in the United States.

Senator Reed, who was the driving force for developing the current high-density public transportation formula back in 2005, stated: “We need to wisely invest in our transportation infrastructure to enhance safety, generate jobs, and strengthen our transportation network,” said Reed.  “This bill provides state transportation departments some measure of certainty as they look to finance maintenance and improvement projects.  It should help RIDOT and RIPTA accelerate needed repairs and better plan for large-scale investments.”

It is estimated that Rhode Island will receive an average of $231.7 million a year in federal funding for roads and bridges and another $39 million per year for mass transit programs.  Under current law, the state receives about $211 million annually for highways and $36.3 million for transit.

Now that the conference negotiators have agreed on the framework of the multi-year surface transportation bill, the legislation must be voted on and approved by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate before it can be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.