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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FTA unveils changes to New Starts/Small Starts program

Yesterday, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published in the Federal Register the agency's new approach for administering the New Starts/Small Starts program.

The agency is making four key changes to the program, which are consistent with President Barack Obama's executive order calling on federal agencies to "modify, streamline, expand or repeal" rules that may be "outmoded, ineffective, insufficient or excessively burdensome," FTA officials said in a prepared statement.

By adopting a simpler, more straightforward approach for measuring a proposed project's cost effectiveness, the FTA no longer will require communities to compare a proposed project's travel time savings against a hypothetical alternative project. Instead, the FTA will consider the estimated cost to build a project compared against an analyzed estimate for the number of riders to be served.

Expanding the range of environmental benefits used to evaluate proposed projects will enable the FTA to analyze the dollar value of anticipated benefits to human health, energy use, air quality and safety.

By adding new economic development factors to its ratings process, the agency also will include a broader set of economic impacts when analyzing local plans and policies already in place, such as whether they maintain or increase affordable housing.

And streamlining the project evaluation process by reducing red tape will enable the FTA to allow project sponsors to forgo a detailed analysis of benefits that are unnecessary to justify a project.

New Starts/Small Starts is the FTA's primary capital public transportation program for expanding transit systems, and represents one of the largest competitive grant programs in in the U.S. government, according to the agency.


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