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Friday, June 04, 2010

FTA works to improve criteria for evaluating major transit projects

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Building on a policy shift announced earlier this year by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the Federal Transit Administration today asked for public comment on how to change the way major transit project proposals seeking federal funding are rated and evaluated.

"Today, we begin seeking ideas that will improve our current rating and evaluation process to ensure we invest wisely in public transportation infrastructure projects of national importance," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We must fairly evaluate all advantages that a transit project may offer, including economic development opportunities and environmental benefits."

The FTA published the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the Federal Register on June 3, 2010. In doing so, the agency seeks public comment on how best to evaluate significant transit infrastructure investments by looking for ways to measure cost-effectiveness, including broad public benefits such as economic development, land use and environmental impacts in the evaluation process.

"Major transit improvements are at the center of President Obama's goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower oil consumption, and improve our quality of life," said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. "The Administration is developing criteria that will appropriately measure all of the benefits these projects bring to their communities. We need the public's input to help get it done."

The rule is part of an ongoing effort to change how projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance in FTA's New Starts and Small Starts programs. The first step in this initiative came in January, when the FTA rescinded budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened average commute times in comparison to its cost. The goal of the action being announced today is to take into consideration the many benefits that transit can provide where the investment would make communities more livable such as underserved areas or those with the densest population and employment.

In addition to soliciting public input on the federal government's docket website, the FTA is planning to hold a number of public listening sessions.  Information concerning specific dates and locations of these listening sessions will be issued in a future Federal Register Notice. Input received from these meetings will be incorporated into a future proposed rulemaking, before the rule becomes final.

FTA will host numerous ANPRM presentations. The first two confirmed outreach forums are:

• TRB Environment and Energy Research Conference, Raleigh, N.C., June 7.

• APTA 2010 Rail Conference‚Ä®, Vancouver, B. C., Canada, June 8.

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