Washington, D.C. – Members of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) voted unanimously today to approve ten projects for approval under the Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) and New Freedom programs of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). These programs fund projects that improve the mobility of persons with disabilities and low-income commuters throughout the region.
Five out of the ten projects the TPB approved involve taxi vouchers, which serve to fill in public transit service gaps. Another project would provide early-morning bus service from Southern Avenue Metro station on the District of Columbia/Maryland border to National Harbor, connecting workers to a growing employment hub in Prince George’s County.
A selection committee led by District of Columbia City Councilmember and TPB Vice Chair Muriel Bowser determined which of the soliciting projects to approve for funding. Bowser said that the committee noticed a marked drop-off in the number of applications for funding this year, and that the applications that were received had lower overall price tags.
During this period of continued economic hardship, the required local matching funds – up to 50 percent for operations – may well have kept the submissions at a minimum. “We speculate that local governments are finding it difficult to find the necessary matching funds,” Bowser noted.
Falls Church City Councilmember and TPB Chair Dave Snyder voiced his desire for future projects to be less locally-focused and more regional. Snyder also suggested that the TPB take the lead in proposing ways the federal government can lessen the administrative and financial burdens, such as reducing the potentially prohibitive funding match requirements which can create an incentive to focus on capital investments rather than operations.
Bowser agreed with Snyder’s suggestions, noting that “even basic requirements can prevent local governments from moving forward on some very important projects.”
In 2006, the TPB became the designated recipient of the FTA’s JARC and New Freedom program funding for the metropolitan Washington area. In 2009, 10 projects (four JARC projects, five New Freedom projects, and one joint JARC and New Freedom project) totaling $3,571,904 were funded, and were provided with $2,434,319 in federal funding.
In total, 25 projects have been funded since the TPB became the recipient of the funds in 2006.