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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) 2020 Washington Briefing


AASHTO Washington Briefing – Washington, DC
Remarks of Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams
(as prepared for delivery)

Good afternoon. Thank you, Victoria [Sheehan, New Hampshire DOT Commissioner and AASHTO Vice President], and thanks also to Jim Tymon, who has been a great partner in his role as AASHTO executive director.

Thanks for the invitation to speak at your annual Washington Briefing.

I’m glad to join my USDOT colleagues – Mala Parker, James Owens and Morteza Farajian – to speak with you today about the priorities of the Federal Transit Administration and how we can continue the productive partnership between FTA and AASHTO.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has made safety, infrastructure investment and innovation her top priorities. These priorities guide the work we do at FTA every day.

Safety, in fact, is the Secretary’s number-one priority, and we continue to partner with each of you to promote safety across the industry.

We are working closely with transit agencies to provide technical assistance to assist transit agencies in complying with the Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan regulation, which calls for agencies to develop safety plans by July 20, 2020. Over the past year, FTA has provided extensive PTASP outreach, including 29 webinars and 10 one-day workshops. To date, we have reached more than 6,000 of our stakeholders, and we are committed to continuing our productive partnership.

Our last in-person workshops are in March, and we will offer webinars throughout April to provide more information to help agencies develop their plans by the deadline.

Earlier this month, President Trump released his Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which contains some very good news about transit: $13.2 billion dollars in funding for FTA – a 2.5 percent increase from FY2020.

In addition, the President’s proposal would include an $896 million – or 9-percent increase – for transit formula and competitive programs, including bus grants, over the last year of the FAST Act. This is significant, given that under the FAST Act the growth rate was just 2 percent.

The budget continues strong support for investment in transit infrastructure through the Capital Investment Grants program. The $1.9 billion request represents the largest request for the CIG program by this Administration and includes $775 million dollars for new projects and an additional $150 million for the Expedited Project Delivery Program.

Since January 2017, this Administration has advanced funding for 25 projects totaling more than $7.6 billion dollars in funding commitments. These investments and the FY21 budget reflects the Trump Administration’s strong commitment to investing in transit infrastructure across America’s communities.

The Administration is proposing reforms and investments in a new Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill that will improve public transportation over the next decade, including $155 billion dollars for FTA funding.

The President’s budget request lays out broad priorities that are important to us all, including:

Ensuring safety;

  • Building infrastructure more efficiently;
  • Investing in both rural and urban America;
  • Maintaining our current assets and improving accessibility;
  • And preparing for the future by partnering with industry on the latest technology.

The Trump Administration’s proposal highlights our most pressing transportation needs. And congressional approval would result in a path to predictable funding levels for an entire decade.

As we continue to invest in infrastructure, we appreciate the strong partnership between FTA and the state DOTs to support the capital needs of transit agencies across the nation. We rely on state DOTs to ensure that transit agencies, particularly in small urban and rural communities, receive federal support to keep their systems in a state of good repair.

In addition to the many grants and formula funds awarded directly to state DOTs, the Department continues to encourage states to use flexible federal funds when considering the transportation priorities in local communities. In the last fiscal year, more than $1.1 billion dollars have flowed through the Federal Highway Administration’s Surface Transportation and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement programs to transit agencies and state DOTs to help support transit projects nationwide.

As I’m sure you are aware, flex funding is a valuable tool, especially when combined with FTA formula or competitive funds.

I’d like to provide you with just one recent result of our productive partnership. Last fall, I traveled to Denver to highlight the Administration’s investment in the nation’s bus system through FTA’s FY19 competitive bus grants program. We provided $423 million dollars in funding to 94 projects in 43 states to help purchase or replace transit buses, build or renovate bus facilities, and improve technology to better meet the demands of today’s riders.

Of the six bus grants we selected in Colorado, five grants totaling approximately $16.4 million dollars went to the Colorado Department of Transportation, or CDOT.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to focus on the importance of innovation. As we enter the next decade, we need to continue to focus on meeting the expectations of our riders. As technology continues to expand, so do rider expectations: they want easy options to pay fares, seamless transfers between transportation modes and limited wait times.

With that in mind, FTA has made innovation the center of our mission to improve public transportation across America’s communities through improving transit service delivery, financing, procurement and applications across all our discretionary programs. As a funding partner, we hope to help alleviate the risks inherent in innovation and encourage communities to think big.

FTA’s new Accelerating Innovative Mobility initiative – or AIM – is just that – thinking BIG!

FTA included innovation as a selection factor for multiple notices of funding opportunity issued recently totaling $615 million. An additional notice of funding opportunity for $11 million dollars in direct AIM funding will be published soon. This NOFO will promote a broad range of innovative projects, including integrated fare payments and service delivery options.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you today. At FTA, we remain committed to partnering with the states to help deliver safe, reliable and efficient public transportation to the thousands of Americans who depend on it every day.

Last updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2020