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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
USDOT finalizes changes to New Starts/Small Starts grant program

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) unveiled a streamlined approach to the New Starts/Small Starts grant program.

The changes are designed to cut bureaucracy, reduce regulations for communities that seek funding, and help get critical transit projects up and running more quickly, FTA officials said in a prepared statement.

The changes are estimated to save about $500,000 annually by requiring less paperwork and allowing communities to prequalify for certain projects, they said.

Under four key changes being made to the program, the FTA will adopt a simpler approach for measuring a proposed project's effectiveness; expand the range of environmental benefits used to evaluate proposed projects; add new economic development factors to the ratings process; and streamline project evaluation by reducing regulations and red tape.

The agency received 1,000 comments from stakeholders and individuals on the proposed changes, and held a webinar and public meetings before unveiling the streamlined approach.

Additional guidance on New Starts/Small Starts program will be forthcoming as part of the implentation of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, legislation, FTA officials said.

In fiscal-year 2012, the New Starts/Small Starts program provided more than $2 billion for capital projects involving light and commuter rail, and bus rapid transit.

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