On December 4, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act.” It is the first law enacted in over ten years providing long-term funding certainty for surface transportation, meaning States and local governments can move forward with critical transportation projects, like new highways and transit lines, with the confidence that they will have a Federal partner over the long term.
Overall, the FAST Act largely maintains current program structures and funding shares between highways and transit. It is a down-payment for building a 21st century transportation system, increasing funding by 11 percent over five years. The law also makes changes and reforms to many Federal transportation programs, including streamlining the approval processes for new transportation projects, providing new safety tools, and establishing new programs to advance critical freight projects.
The FAST Act includes a number of positive provisions, including reinstating the popular bus discretionary grant program and strengthening the Buy America requirements that promote domestic manufacturing through vehicle and track purchases. The law also will help bolster the Department’s safety oversight of transit agencies and also streamlines the Federal truck and bus safety grant programs, giving more flexibility to States to improve safety in these areas.
FAST makes Transit Oriented Development (TOD) expenses eligible for funding under highway and rail credit programs. TOD promotes dense commercial and residential development near transit hubs in an effort to shore up transit ridership and promote walkable, sustainable land use.