Holdup of FTA investment program funds could threaten transit projects
A letter was sent recently to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urging the administration to release of $2.4 billion in funds for transit projects. The funds were previously allocated by the Federal Transit Administration for light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit projects. There are many shovel-ready projects that could be launched immediately and quite a few were included in the spending bill that was passed by Congress in early May.
Just last week, the Federal Transit Administration announced it will approve $647 million for the San Carlos Peninsula Corridor (Northern California) Electrification project. That funding will be used to electrify the existing Caltrain commuter rail system.
A few other projects have signed funding agreements so those projects can be launched. These projects include six California transit lines, and rail work projects in Denver, Colo., Portland, Ore., Fort Worth, Texas, Chicago, Ill., Boston, Mass. and Charlotte, N.C. The fate of numerous other projects, however, hangs in limbo.
- Seattle Washington’s Lynnwood Link Extension project – This funding would be used to complete a light rail line portion of the Sound Transit 3 plan that was approved by Seattle-area voters in fall 2016. The Central Puget Sound Transit Authority was prepared to fund half of the costs for this very important project.
- Indianapolis’s Red Line All-Electric Bus Rapid Transit Project – The Red Line project would provide service to more than 100,000 people in Indianapolis and provide infrastructure upgrades that are needed. Construction was expected to start in 2017.
- Minneapolis METRO Blue Line Extension – This project covers a light rail transit extension to serve a very rapidly growing population. The rail extension would cover downtown Minneapolis, North Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park. Federal funding would be supplemented with state and local funding.
- Arizona’s Tempe Streetcar Project – Arizona is prepared to construct a streetcar line from downtown Tempe to Arizona State University and other residential and commercial areas. Additional funding was secured for the project and construction was expected to begin in June of this year. Arizona had other projects under consideration for federal funding as well.
- Kansas City’s MAX Bus Rapid Transit project – This project was centered around the RideKC Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line. The funding would be used to provide service to the residential-commercial corridor in Kansas City, Mo. The $54 million project would have used funding from the FTA’s Small Starts Program. Additional funding was secured from the Surface Transport Authority of Kansas City and some private-sector investors.
The jury is out on whether any of these projects will now receive federal funding. If not, most will be targets for collaborative efforts with private-sector contractors willing to enter into a public-private partnership that provides funding.
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