Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feds recommend $2.2 billion to advance transit projects in 15 states

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recommended $2.2 billion in funding to begin or advance construction of 29 significant rail and bus rapid transit projects in 15 states. All the recommendations are part of the Federal Transit Administration's Annual Report on Funding Recommendations for Fiscal Year 2013.

President Obama's proposed budget recommends investing $243.7 million for seven new transit construction projects, including rail and bus rapid transit projects in California, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Washington State. An additional 10 projects that were recommended for funding in previous years, but have not yet received federal commitments, will receive $769.5 million in this year's budget.

"President Obama is committed to building an America that works for all of us, and these projects will ensure that hard-working families have real transportation choices," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. "They represent truly transformational investments that will provide the public with new and reliable ways to get to work, school, and medical appointments while easing congestion on many of our highways."

In addition to the transit construction projects that have not yet been funded, the proposed budget provides nearly $1.2 billion for the continued funding of 12 rail and bus rapid transit projects already under construction in Dallas, Denver, Hartford, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, Northern Virginia, Orlando, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

The New Starts and Small Starts capital investment program is one of the largest discretionary grant programs in the federal government. Proposed projects, such as rapid rail, light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit and ferries, are evaluated and rated on a number of measures at several steps in the process as they seek FTA approval for a federal funding commitment to finance project construction.

Secretary LaHood and FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff recently proposed changes to the New Starts/Small Starts program to reduce red tape in order to allow approved projects to begin construction sooner and help FTA focus more on local needs, such as economic development, community revitalization, and responding to historically underserved populations.

Rail projects included in the recommendations are:
• $20 million to help build a 3.1-mile extension of the Central Mesa Light Rail Transit line to connect Phoenix and Mesa, Ariz. The new light rail line is in addition to the existing Central Phoenix/East Valley Light Rail line, which opened in 2008. The FTA provided $587 million for the existing project and its extensions, including $36 million from the Recovery Act, which is estimated to have spurred more than $5 billion in economic development along the Phoenix-Mesa corridor.

• $70 million in funds for a 9.3-mile extension of the LYNX Blue Line light-rail line that will bring additional transit service to and from downtown Charlotte, N.C. The project would relieve traffic along I-85 and US 29, connect the University of North Carolina-Charlotte campus to downtown Charlotte and add 11 stations to the northeast beyond the line's current terminus at 7th Street.

• $100 million for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail project in Oregon, which will create a new transit bridge over the Willamette River to facilitate the 7.3-mile expansion of the TriMet MAX Light Rail.

• $250 million to help construct a high-capacity 20-mile rail line through Honolulu that would offer an alternative to the congested roadways.

• $150 million to advance the second phase of construction of the San Francisco Central Subway light-rail project, which will provide an important direct rapid transit link connecting the Financial District, Union Square and Chinatown in one of the city's densest corridors.

• $150 million for the Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project, which will greatly increase heavy rail transit service between the greater San Francisco Bay area and Santa Clara County, thereby relieving congestion along the I-880 and I-660 corridors.

• $45.6 million to extend the Sacramento South Corridor light-rail transit line by 4.3 miles to the south, which will improve access to all the new jobs forecasted for downtown Sacramento, Calif., spur anticipated economic development along Route 99 and I-5 and add park-and-ride facilities for commuters.

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