Is the FTA taking longer to approve transit projects?

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
Transit funding
The House T&I Committee is accusing the FTA of sitting on billions of dollars in funding.
Sound Transit

If the Capital Improvement Program is actually sitting on money, the Trump administration is not squirming.

The House of Representative’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wants to know why the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is slow on releasing money to transit projects in desperate need of it. The FTA, however, is denying any wrongdoing.

According to T&I Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the FTA has released just $2.4 billion of the $3.8 billion that has been appropriated. The delays are resulting in added cost for local transit agencies. DeFazio says the slower process has led to $845 million in additional costs since 2017, including $650 million resulting from changes to how the FTA assesses risk and $195 million because of holdups with the approval process. DeFazio believes the penalties could have gone towards funding more transit projects. It now takes new transit line projects, called New Start Projects, an average of 391 days to get the proper nod from FTA, compared to 172 days prior to 2017. Projects costing less than $100 million, Small Start Projects, took about 112 days for approval prior to 2017. Now it is taking an average of 243 days.

FTA’s Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams says the Trump administration’s goal is to streamline projects, and her agency is doing everything in accordance with the law. As for delays in the approval process, Williams points to project complexities.

Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America, says Congress may need to strip some of the approval powers away from the FTA in order to expedite funding allocation.

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Categories: Commuter/Regional, Intercity, Passenger, Rapid Transit/Light Rail
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