U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Feb. 14 recommended $2.2 billion in funding to begin or advance construction of 29 significant rail and bus rapid transit projects in 15 states.
The projects, included in President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, will put thousands of Americans to work building the vital infrastructure the nation needs to improve access to jobs while reducing U.S. dependence on oil and spurring new economic development.
“President Obama called on us to rebuild America by putting people back to work on transportation projects that are built to last,” said LaHood in a press release. “The budget proposal released yesterday demonstrates our commitment to put people back to work to build the infrastructure we need that will improve our transit systems, highways, railways and airports well into the future. At this make-or-break moment for the middle class, we can afford to do no less.”
President Obama’s proposed budget recommends investing $243.7 million for seven new transit construction projects, including rail and bus rapid transit projects in California, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Washington State. An additional 10 projects that were recommended for funding in previous years, but have not yet received federal commitments, will receive $769.5 million in this year’s budget.
“President Obama is committed to building an America that works for all of us, and these projects will ensure that hard-working families have real transportation choices,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff in a press statement. “They represent truly transformational investments that will provide the public with new and reliable ways to get to work, school, and medical appointments while easing congestion on many of our highways.”
In addition to the transit construction projects that have not yet been funded, the proposed budget provides nearly $1.2 billion for the continued funding of 12 rail and bus rapid transit projects already under construction in Dallas, Denver, Hartford, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, Northern Virginia, Orlando, Salt Lake City, and Seattle.
The New Starts and Small Starts capital investment program is one of the largest discretionary grant programs in the federal government. Proposed projects, such as rapid rail, light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, and ferries, are evaluated and rated on a number of measures at several steps in the process as they seek FTA approval for a federal funding commitment to finance project construction.
LaHood and Rogoff recently proposed changes to the New Starts/Small Starts program to reduce red tape in order to allow approved projects to begin construction sooner and help FTA focus more on local needs, such as economic development, community revitalization, and responding to historically underserved populations.
Examples of some of the projects in the President’s proposed FY 2013 budget include:
- Charlotte, North Carolina, LYNX Blue Line Extension (Northeast Corridor): The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) proposed the construction of a new light rail transit line that would extend from Uptown Charlotte, the region’s central business district, northeast to the US 29 interchange and the University of North Carolina – Charlotte campus. Commuters along the I-85/US 29 corridor have suffered through increasing congestion that population increases and economic development are expected to only make worse. The LRT will be 9.3 miles and serve 11 new stations. The FTA plans to fund 50 percent of the total $1.07 billion project cost, or $534.6 million.
- Jacksonville, Florida, Southeast Corridor and North Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): The FTA recommended funding for two BRT projects in Jacksonville that will combine for 20 miles of new rapid transit routes and 21 new stations. The Southeast Corridor will receive its first recommendation for funding in the President’s budget and the FTA will continue to support development of the North Corridor. The two corridors will serve a highly transit-dependent population along extremely congested parts of the Jacksonville area. The total cost of the two projects is more than $57 million, of which FTA will cover nearly $47 million, or 80 percent of the two projects.