DOT chief touts $2.5B in Obama budget for transit expansion

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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Wednesday that President Obama's proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year includes $2.5 billion that is set aside for expanding public transit access in the U.S.

The funding will be used to pay for 26 rail, bus rapid transit and streetcar projects in 16 states, Foxx said.

The DOT chief said the funding was more evidence of Obama's commitment to boosting the among of public transportation options that are available in the U.S.

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“President Obama has laid out a bold vision for investing in 21st century transportation infrastructure that removes barriers to success for millions of Americans while strengthening our nation’s economy today and in the future,” Foxx said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring that every American has access to the ladders of opportunity that lead to success – and access to public transportation is essential to making that happen.”

The transportation department said the funding for the public transit projects would come from  the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment grant program.

Among the projects that are included in the DOT's recommended grant winners are bus rapid transit systems in El Paso, Texas and Nashville, as well as a extension of the Boston, Mass. "T" subway system's Green line.

Obama also included funding for the proposed Purple Line light railway in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. and the expansion of the SunRail commuter rail system in Orlando under the transportation department's "new starts" matching fund grant program in his budget.

Foxx told reporters on Wednesday that the Obama administration believes "transit is a viable part of America's transportation ecosystem.

"We will do everything we can to urge Congress to support the recommendations we just discussed," the DOT chief said.