Trump accused of stalling Sacramento streetcar. Locals must prove more, his officials respond

A national transportation group on Monday accused the Trump administration of stalling the Sacramento streetcar proposal and 16 other transit projects around the country.

Transportation For America, a Washington, D.C. lobbying group for transportation, said Trump’s Federal Transit Administration is defying Congress by not allocating $1.4 billion that Congress and the administration agreed in March would be distributed this year.

“By failing to use these funds, the Federal Transit Administration is driving up the cost of projects, causing unnecessary delay and failing to be the partner in supporting transit that the law requires,” Beth Osborne of TFA said. “It is interesting that an administration so focused on speeding up project delivery has become one of the biggest obstacles for the timely delivery of transit projects.”

The group put a clock on its website ticking the time since March, and suggested that the Trump administration just doesn’t like transit.

Trump officials immediately called that critique misleading.

Federal officials responded to the TFA critique by saying the cities on that project list, including Sacramento, have not yet fulfilled all requirements to obtain the funding.

“It is inaccurate to imply the projects listed by Transportation for America are ‘ready-to-go,’” the Federal Transit Administration said in a press statement. “None of the projects listed have met the requirements in law for receipt of Capital Investment Grants CIG funding.

“The most advanced projects on the list are in the grant document preparation phase, while the majority of the projects on the list have critical items left to complete before a grant can even be considered.”

Sacramento officials have been pushing unsuccessfully for more than a year to get the Trump administration to provide half of the funding for a planned $208 million streetcar that would run through downtown Sacramento and across Tower Bridge into West Sacramento.

Officials say they have the necessary $100 million in local construction funding lined up, as well as some of the operating funds.

FTA officials said on Monday that the local Sacramento sponsors, including the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, have not yet “completed all critical third party agreements, developed a firm and reliable cost estimate, and satisfactorily demonstrated the technical capacity to undertake the project.”

Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who worked to get the congressional funding approvals for the streetcar and other projects, said the FTA needs to be a good partner. “The federal funding has been appropriated for the Sacramento Streetcar project, so FTA needs to follow through on moving the grant agreement forward in a timely and efficient manner,” Matsui said in a statement to The Bee.

James Corless, head of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, said Monday that Sacramento has had good conversations recently with the FTA and believes it is taking the necessary steps to satisfy the federal agency.

But he acknowledged construction and labor costs in general continue to rise, causing concern that Sacramento may face the same problems other cities have, where construction bids came in higher than expected.

Sacramento streetcar advocates already have had to scramble for local funds this year to keep the planning process alive. Sacramento Councilman Jeff Harris, a member of the streetcar board, warned in June that he and other local officials were getting tired of digging for more local funds while waiting for OKs.

“It’s getting a little tedious,” he said. “There comes a cut-off line where you just can’t invest any more on a promise.”

Other areas awaiting promised federal funding for transit projects include: Albuquerque, Dallas, El Paso, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Orange County, Reno, Seattle, Gary, St. Petersburg and Tempe.

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