January 13, 2010

New Starts/Small Starts policy shift proposed

On Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed that new funding guidelines for major transit projects be based on livability issues, such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved, which are currently the primary criteria.

In remarks at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting, the Secretary announced the Obama Administration's plans to change how projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance in the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) New Starts and Small Starts programs.

As part of this initiative, the FTA will immediately rescind budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in March of 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost.

The change will apply to how the FTA evaluates major transit projects going forward. In making funding decisions, the FTA will now evaluate the environmental, community and economic development benefits provided by transit projects, as well as the congestion relief benefits from such projects.

FTA will soon initiate a separate rulemaking process, inviting public comment on ways to appropriately measure all the benefits that result from such investments.   

For additional coverage, read the Wall Street Journal article.

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