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1/14/2010



Rail News: Passenger Rail

USDOT to change FTA's funding guidelines for major transit projects


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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed new funding guidelines for major transit projects that would be based on livability issues, such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and commuting-time savings.

The guidelines would change how the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) selects projects to receive federal funding through the New Starts and Small Starts programs. The FTA will immediately rescind budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in March 2005 that primarily focused on how much a transit project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost.

The new guidelines would enable the FTA to evaluate a project’s environmental, community, economic development and congestion relief benefits. The administration soon will initiate a separate rulemaking process on the guidelines and seek public comment on the best ways to measure such benefits.

“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a prepared statement. “We’ll finally be able to make the case for investing in popular streetcar projects and other transit systems that people want — and that our old ways of doing business didn’t value enough.”

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) backs the guideline revisions as “much needed changes to the New Starts project selection process.”

“This is a change that APTA has long championed, and it will allow for a more efficient approval process, so projects can move forward more quickly,” said APTA President William Millar in a prepared statement. “As a part of our recommendations to Congress and the Administration, APTA advocated that the FTA must consider transit supportive land use and economic development in a way that simplifies the New Starts rating process.”


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