Bennet: New Transportation Bill Will Provide Certainty for Colorado Transportation Projects

Committee-Approved Bill Includes Bennet-Backed Changes to Rural Transit Formula and Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning

Bennet Introduces Additional Bill to Spur Transit-Oriented Development

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet applauded committee passage of a bill to provide more certainty for transit projects in Colorado and across the country, including provisions Bennet pushed for to improve the rural transit formula program and establish a pilot program for transit-oriented development planning. The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs passed the Federal Public Transportation Act with broad bipartisan support.

“Finally, Colorado is one step closer to more certainty for transportation project planning and about resources from the federal government,” said Bennet. “This bill will help communities across our state begin or continue work on transit projects and development to help connect Coloradans, ease traffic and provide service that meets the needs of Coloradans. Colorado will also enjoy additional federal resources from an improved rural transit formula. I will continue to work for swift passage on the Senate floor.”

One Bennet provision in the bill would modify the rural transit formula program, which currently takes into account rural population and land area to determine a state’s rural transit funding level each year. Under this new language, the number of miles traveled on rural transit trips would also be taken into account. This means Colorado funding would increase from approximately $7.7 million in FY2011 to an expected $9.1 million under the new formula.

Another provision is based on a Bennet bill and authorizes $20 million per year for FY12 and FY13 to award competitive grants for transit-oriented development planning purposes around new transit facilities or ones where capacity improvements are being made. The program will help communities work closely with private investors to plan for the infrastructure needs that will promote mixed-use economic development around transit facilities.

The bill, which is a two-year authorization, is the longest extension since the last surface transportation bill expired at the end of 2009.

Bennet and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) also introduced a bill this week to support localities in efforts to generate economic development near transit-friendly locations. The Jumpstarting Transit-Oriented Development Act establishes new financing options to provide localities with planning grants in addition to a loan program so local communities can help finance transit-oriented development.

“The Denver-metro region is undergoing one of the largest expansions of its transit system with new commuter rail, light rail, and bus rapid transit,” Bennet said. “The Jumpstarting TOD Act will help communities work closely with the private sector to make the most of new and existing transit facilities. And Coloradans will have even more of a reason take advantage of public transit with commercial, retail, housing and other facilities in close proximity to these modes of transportation.”

The two-year legislation would authorize $20 million for planning grants and would make available $40 million a year to be used toward the loan program. The bill has the support of Transportation for America, Reconnecting America, Smart Growth America as well as numerous localities, local transit providers and advocacy groups. 

Demand for housing near transit in walkable, mixed-use communities is projected to double over the next 20 years, to 15.2 million households by 2030. Managing growth in a responsible, community-centered way that considers environment, health and our nation’s energy security will continue to provide challenges over the next several decades.

The Jumpstarting Transit-Oriented Development Act will address the lack of financing options for transit-oriented development through a loan program. Loans or loan guarantees will be awarded to applicants for projects that encourage increased use of transit, create or preserve long-term affordable housing, facilitate and encourage additional development in the overall transit station area, and are a part of a comprehensive regional plan.  Eligible borrowers will be required to have a reliable, dedicated revenue source to repay the loan. This loan program would supplement private-sector funding by providing the final piece of financing for development plans that meet the necessary criteria and demonstrate an ability to repay the loan.  In addition, public-private partnerships would be eligible applicants, allowing localities to leverage private sector dollars resulting in a higher return on investment.