U.S. Federal Transit Administration- light rail funding for Detroit and Sacramento

January 11, 2013

Business, Government/Politics

U.S. Department of Transportation Finalizes Significant Changes to Major Capital Transit Investment Program

Federal Transit Administration

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has unveiled a streamlined approach for administering its primary capital public transportation program for expanding transit systems. The New Starts/Small Starts program, one of the largest competitive grant programs in the U.S. government, funds roughly half the cost of new and extended light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit and ferry systems built in the United States.

“Now more than ever, Americans need quality transportation choices that improve mobility, enhance access to jobs and encourage sustainable communities,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “These changes, years in the making, reflect the Obama Administration’s commitment to strengthening public transportation across the United States as efficiently, effectively and fairly as possible.”

This work is the product of more than two years of public outreach to identify ways to cut red tape, reduce regulations for communities seeking federal funds, and help get critical transit projects under construction more quickly without compromising a stringent project review process. The changes are estimated to save taxpayers almost $500,000 annually by requiring less time-consuming paperwork and allowing communities to pre-qualify for certain projects. Additional savings may result from accelerating project delivery.

“The changes we’re making to the New Starts capital investment program are a huge win for communities that want to see more of their local transportation priorities become reality,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “We’ll be in a position to save federal and local taxpayers’ money and put more Americans to work by allowing good projects to begin construction more quickly.”

Four key changes are being made to the New Starts/Small Starts program:

  1. FTA is adopting a simpler, more straightforward approach for measuring a proposed project’s cost-effectiveness. FTA will no longer require communities to compare a proposed project’s travel time savings against a hypothetical alternative project. Instead, FTA will look at the estimated cost to construct the project communities intend to build compared against a rigorously analyzed estimate for the number of passengers the project will serve.
  2. FTA is expanding the range of environmental benefits used to evaluate proposed projects. In addition to taking into account the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional air quality designations, FTA will also look at the dollar value of the anticipated benefits to human health, energy use, air quality (such as changes in total greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants) and safety (such as reductions in accidents and fatalities).
  3. FTA is adding new economic development factors to its ratings process. FTA currently looks at local plans and policies already in place to encourage economic development and how well they’re working in a given area. Going forward, a broader set of economic impacts will be included, such as whether local plans and policies maintain or increase affordable housing.
  4. FTA is streamlining the project evaluation process by reducing regulations and red tape. FTA will allow project sponsors to forgo a detailed analysis of benefits that are unnecessary to justify a project. For example, projects that receive a sufficient rating on benefits calculations will not be required to do an analysis to forecast benefits out to some future year. Similarly, FTA is developing methods that can be used to estimate benefits using simple approaches.

FTA received approximately 1,000 comments on the proposed changes from a wide range of stakeholders and individuals. The agency also conducted extensive outreach, holding a webinar and public meetings in Atlanta, Dallas, and San Diego. Additional interim guidance on New Starts/Small Starts will be forthcoming to address provisions affected by the enactment of the legislation on Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).

The changes announced today are consistent with Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama in January 2011, calling on Federal agencies to “modify, streamline, expand, or repeal” rules that may be “outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome.”

In FY2012, FTA’s New Starts/Small Starts program provided more than $2 billion for capital projects to help build light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit projects. In FY2011 and FY2012 alone, FTA signed more capital construction agreements for transit projects than in any two-year period in the agency’s history.


New regulatory framework for FTA’s evaluation and rating of major transit capital investments seeking funding under the discretionary ‘‘New Starts’’ and ‘‘Small Starts’’ programs
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FTA New Approach- Federal Register

FTA New Starts Policy Guidance-January 9, 2013
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FTA New Starts Policy Guidance

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announces $7 Million for Transit Workforce Development Grants to boost training, employment opportunities

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today (January, 11, 2013) announced that 17 organizations in 12 states will receive a share of $7 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Innovative Transit Workforce Development Program. The grants help local public transit agencies, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and Indian tribes train a future generation of transit professionals, with particular emphasis on promoting training opportunities in emerging technologies and encouraging young people to pursue careers in public transportation.

Detroit light rail project to get $25 milion in federal aid
Transportation chief expected to announce Detroit funds January 18, 2013
M-1 Rail project to bring light rail to about 3 miles of Woodward Avenue between downtown and the New Center area

By Matt Helms and Todd Spangler
Detroit Free Press Staff Writers

President Barack Obama’s Transportation Secretary will visit Detroit late next week with $25 million in new money for the fledgling M-1 Rail project to bring light rail to about 3 miles of Woodward Avenue between downtown and New Center, two people familiar with the decision confirmed today.

Ray LaHood is expected to be in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show on Monday for industry-related events, but he will return Jan. 18 to award $25 million to the M-1 project, a largely private-sector effort to bring a light-rail line to Woodward after a larger effort, spanning from downtown to 8 Mile, collapsed last year.


Detroit M-1 Light Rail rendering

Video: Detroit light rail news from June 2012 prior to the current $25 million funding


Detroit M-1 Light Rail

M-1 Rail Fast Facts
•The light rail will have 11 stops from the Riverfront to the New Center area
•Stations will be wheel-chair accessible and fully lit,  have a closed-circuit security system, emergency phone and covered ticket vending machine
•Each light rail car stops every seven to eight minutes during peak hours and every 12 to 13 minutes during off-peak hours •Vehicles seat 60 passengers with the capacity to carry 149
•The light rail will be equipped with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system

M-1 RAIL will connect and strengthen the entire 3.3 mile Woodward corridor from the Riverfront to Grand Boulevard, and work seamlessly with commuter and other local transportation systems.

The promise of the local rail circular project has already:

  • Propelled the development of new real estate projects up and down the Woodward corridor
  • Contributed to decisions by two hospital systems to expand investments in the city
  • Given rise to Midtown and downtown housing incentive programs
  • Served as the motivation for commercial property purchases in the urban core
  • Generated some $100 million of grant and loan commitments to date by national financial institutions and foundations

M-1 RAIL will be built and operated through funding provided by private donors, philanthropic foundations, corporate gifts, federal grants and tax credits. No city or state funds will be used in its construction.

Detroit M-1 Light Rail Map

Detroit M-1 Light Rail Timeline


Detroit’s rail system of the past

Detroit Gratiot at Dequindre

Detroit Ford Motor Company Rouge Plant 1930s

Detroit rail system


Video: Detroit trolley dedication 


U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announces $135 million to extend Sacramento Light Rail to growing South Corridor

Federal Transit Administration

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today participated in a signing ceremony to commit $135 million to extend the existing Sacramento Light Rail Blue Line by 4.3 miles, linking downtown Sacramento to the growing South Sacramento County corridor. The expansion offers commuters an alternative to congested Highway 99 while bringing new transit service to Cosumnes River College, one of the area’s major employers. Secretary LaHood was joined at the signing ceremony by Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, California Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Mayor Kevin Johnson and other state and local officials.

“The Obama Administration is committed to helping the Sacramento area create a modern, efficient transportation network to spur new economic development and reduce congestion in the region,” said Secretary LaHood. “Across America, we’re investing in projects like this one that are built to last and keep our economy moving forward.”

Ridership on Sacramento’s existing light rail system rose by 7.4 percent between Fiscal Year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2012, and the area population is expected to grow steadily over the next five years as the local economy continues to improve. Extending the Blue Line will improve access to the area’s major employers and encourage new retail and residential development in specially zoned areas. According to Sacramento Regional Transit, which operates the line, the extension project will generate 1,000 jobs or more over the next two years.

“California’s capital region needs robust transportation choices to ensure that current and future generations have ready and affordable access to jobs, education, medical appointments and more,” said Administrator Rogoff. “The Blue Line light rail extension will help thousands of Cosumnes students spend less at the pump, and will spur retail and residential development at the new Morrison Creek Station and beyond.”

The project extends the Blue Line light rail line 4.3 miles from Meadowview Road to Cosumnes River College and includes four new stations at Morrison Creek, Franklin Boulevard, Center Parkway and the college. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is funding 50 percent of the $270 million project through its New Starts Program. DOT provided an additional $7.1 million; the remaining cost will be covered by state and local funding.

Today’s funding announcement is the latest of several investments in Sacramento’s transportation future made by FTA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). For instance, in June 2012, Secretary LaHood announced that DOT would provide $15 million through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program to rehabilitate the Sacramento Valley Rail Station, an intermodal transit hub connected to the Sacramento Light Rail Gold Line. FTA provided $111.2 million, or half the total cost, of the South Corridor (Blue Line) light rail starter line, which began operations in 2003.


Video: Transportation secretary announces $135M for Sacramento light-rail extension


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