Transit agencies rally for highway bill

Transit agencies rally for highway bill
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Public transit advocates are holding rallies across the country on Thursday to push Congress to approve a new transportation spending bill this year.

The current transportation funding measure is scheduled to expire on May 31, and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has declared Thursday "Stand Up For Transportation Day" to build support for an extension.

The Washington, D.C.-based group said transit riders will make appeals to lawmakers themselves on Thursday. 

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"With the future of America's public transportation, roads, bridges and rail systems on the line, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) will host Stand Up for Transportation Day' on April 9, 2015," the group said in a statement. 

"At local events across the country, 'Stand Up for Transportation Day' will unite the voices of hundreds of organizations, along with local, state and federal elected officials, business and transportation leaders, public transit advocates, and transit riders," the APTA statement continued. "They will collectively call on Congress to take action and pass a long-term surface transportation bill before federal funding expires on May 31."

The expiring transportation bill includes a requirement that 20 percent of the federal government's infrastructure spending is dedicated to transit systems.

Lawmakers are struggling to come with a way to pay for an extension of the measure, and they have begun talking about passing a temporary extension to prevent an interruption in construction projects this summer.

The transit group said Thursday's event would make the case that a longer extension is necessary. 

"For the last decade, Congress has passed one short-term solution after another," the group said. "Without a long-term federal transportation funding bill, Americans across the country will face tremendous uncertainty, and public transportation systems with infrastructure in desperate need of repair will once again resort to temporary solutions.

"Transportation is the backbone of our national economy, and new analysis from APTA that will be released on April 9, shows the very real impacts that the lack of federal funding would have on public transportation systems and the communities they serve," APT continued. "A long-term transportation bill is urgently needed to help our local and national economies grow and to provide crucial funding for public."

The Department of Transportation has said it's Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in July unless Congress reaches a deal to replenish it.

Lawmakers in both parties have expressed a desire to boost transportation spending, but an agreement on a funding source has been elusive.