Key light-rail projects receive another dose of federal funding

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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Some key light-rail transit projects will receive assistance from the federal government.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a total of $250 million in federal funding allocations to help communities across the country protect the jobs of workers involved in constructing transit projects, ensuring the continued advancement of those critical pieces of infrastructure, despite the impacts of COVID-19.

Twenty-two transit projects in the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program will receive these funds. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021. The transit infrastructure projects are located in 13 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington State and Wisconsin.

“Public transit opens new opportunities for people, and delivers environmental and economic benefits to communities,” said Buttigieg. “We are delighted to provide support for these projects, which will help communities recover from the pandemic and bring public transit to more people in the months and years to come.”

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 specified that $250 million could be distributed to Small Starts projects in the CIG program that previously received a CIG funding allocation from the FTA or that are in the Project Development phase of the CIG program. These projects represent several modes, including bus rapid transit, streetcar, and light rail. Projects in the Project Development phase are nearing completion of the requirements in law for a construction grant award. 

The Act further specified that the funding does not count toward statutory federal or CIG funding limitations, but rather is meant to assist project sponsors with their local match.

“This funding will help numerous communities across the country continue to protect jobs and advance important transit projects that otherwise might have been canceled or delayed due to the pandemic,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “These federal funding allocations are so important for transit agencies struggling in the wake of COVID-19.”

The CIG Program provides funding for major transit infrastructure capital investments nationwide. Projects accepted into the program must go through a multi-year, multi-step process according to requirements in law to be eligible for consideration to receive program funds.

Below are some of the projects receiving federal funding:

Tempe, Ariz.: Tempe Streetcar Project

Valley Metro will receive a $17.4 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding for the Tempe Streetcar project, a 3-mile streetcar with 14 stations and six vehicles that will connect downtown Tempe, Arizona State University, and the emerging employment corridor of Rio Salado Parkway, which connects existing light rail serving Phoenix, Mesa, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Charlotte, N.C.: LYNX Streetcar Phase II Project

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) will receive an $11.1 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding for the CityLYNX Gold Line Streetcar Phase II project, a 2.5-mile project extension west from the Charlotte Transportation Center to the campus of Johnson C. Smith University and east from the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center to the Sunnyside neighborhood.

Tacoma, Wash.: Tacoma Link Extension Project

Sound Transit will receive a $20.7 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding for the Hilltop Tacoma Link extension, a 2.4-mile light-rail line that will run along Commerce Street and Stadium Way to the Hilltop District in Tacoma, Washington.

Portland, Ore.: MAX Red Line Extension and Reliability Improvements

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon’s (TriMet) will receive a $15.7 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding for the MAX Red Line Extension and Reliability Improvements project, a 7.8-mile extension of the MAX Red Line from Beaverton Transit Center to downtown Hillsboro. The project also will increase the reliability of the MAX light-rail system between Portland International Airport and Beaverton Transit Center. 

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