Miami, Sacramento, Boston Transit Projects Still Seeking Federal Approval

Amid the good vibes yesterday
over new federal funding agreements for transit projects in New York
City, Oakland, Hartford, and other metro areas, the Federal Transit
Administration (FTA) also offered a spell of bad news to a few local
proposals that are still working to meet the agency’s standards for

subway5.jpgAn extension of Miami’s Metrorail is on the ropes in the fight for federal aid. (Photo: Laurel_blogger via Photobucket)

In its full report [PDF]
on transit New and Small Starts, the FTA listed 14 transit projects in
the "Preliminary Engineering" phase, with three of those receiving an
overall project rating of Medium-Low. Projects need to receive
an overall status of Medium or above in order to get federal funding,
even after the FTA relaxed its former emphasis on cost-effectiveness.

So which three projects are still stuck in neutral when it comes to winning Washington’s approval? Boston’s Silver Line Phase III plan, a $1.7 billion tunnel that would connect Chinatown with the southern waterfront and the airport; Sacramento’s South Corridor Phase II, a four-mile extension of local light rail estimated at $270 million; and Miami’s Orange Line Phase II, a 9.2-mile extension of the city’s Metrorail with a price tag of $1.3 billion.

and Boston, having already gotten the cold shoulder in 2008, could face
a permanent no from the feds if they cannot strengthen their proposals
this year.

Interestingly, the three transit projects that
have yet to reach a Medium rating got subpar evaluations of their local
governments’ financial contributions even though their proposed federal
share of capital costs was comparable to the those for successful
transit projects in Minneapolis and Denver. (Boston’s preferred federal
share stands at 60 percent, Sacramento’s at 50 percent and Miami’s at
47 percent.)

For the full skinny, check out page 13 of the FTA’s report.

  • Joseph E

    Why does the FTA continue to expect local governments to contribute the majority of the cost of these projects, while highways get 80% of funds from the feds? It appears that the new Metro in Honolulu will only get about 20 or 30% from the FTA, with the city and state carrying the vast majority of the cost.

    In an ideal world, local governments would be able to pay for this infrastructure all by themselves, or with public-private parternships. But as long as highway and street construction is heavily subsidized, new transit projects can’t compete.

    When was the last time a transit agency was asked to pay half of the cost of repaving a busy bus route on a state or federal highway?

  • Joseph E, at one point the feds during the Bush era were giving more weigh to projects that had more local money in the mix. This appears to be easing with the new administration. Of course New Starts is undergoing scrutiny as to process etc. as part of the reauthorization of federal transportation funding.

    GAO does excellent reports on new starts and its status (click transportation for search)

    Of course the real question is why transit funding entails jumping through so many hoops and is a competitive process while highways basically entail rounding up the 20% match and do the environmental analysis.

  • Erik G.

    The Boston Silver Li(n)e Part 3 is a real mess. It does not deserve to be built, in fact the need there is to use an existing tunnel to extend the Green (Light Rail) line down Washington Street. It is not a project that desrves any attention from the FTA let alone funding.


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