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Legal Handbook For New Starts Process

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The Transit Cooperative Research Program has released a "Legal handbook for the New Starts process." The handbook, which was created by the TCRP's Legal Research Digests program, is designed to guide transit agencies and their attorneys through the New Starts process.

Sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration, the report was prepared under TCRP Project J-5, “Legal Aspects of Transit and Intermodal Transportation Programs.” The report was prepared by Daniel Duff, Edward J. Gill, Jr., and G. Kent Woodman, Thompson Coburn LLP. James B. McDaniel, TRB Counsel for Legal Research Projects, was the principal investigator and content editor.

"This Legal Handbook for the New Starts Process presents an overview of the FTA’s New Starts project development process and the legal issues associated with it," the report notes. "Given the issues at stake and the amount of discretionary funding project sponsors compete for, it is not surprising that the FTA’s project development process is lengthy and complex. Moreover, there are many actors involved in the process."

The report notes that Congress recently directed FTA to modify the weight it assigns its project justification criteria, and FTA consequently has withdrawn a pending New Starts rulemaking and indicated that it would be developing a new rulemaking and new guidance. Despite this, the authors explain, the overall framework of the New Starts process has been in place for some time and should remain generally the same.

The handbook breaks down the lengthy New process into these chapters:

  • The New Starts Program—History and Framework
  • FTA Project Evaluation and Rating Process
  • Alternatives Analysis Phase
  • Preliminary Engineering Phase
  • Final Design Phase
  • The Full Funding Grant Agreement
  • FTA Funding Recommendations
  • Small Starts and Very Small Starts

The handbook has been added to the Best Practices database.

Legal handbook for the New Starts process