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Questions and Answers about New Starts/Small Starts Program Cuts in the Final FY11 Continuing Resolution

Q.   How much funding is cut from the New Starts/Small Starts program? 

A. The final Continuing Resolution, which would fund the government through the end of FY2011, made two cuts to the federal New Starts/Small Starts program, which provides funding for fixed guideway (e.g., subway, light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit) projects. 

The amount of funding cut from FY11 depends on what the baseline for comparison is.  The CR would fund the New Starts/Small Starts program in FY11 at $1.6 billion, which is $400 million less than the FY10 level – but only about $220 million less than what the President requested for FY11.  (The President’s request for FY11 was $1.822 billion, while the FY10 actual appropriation was $2 billion). 

The CR also rescinds $280 million from unobligated funds that were appropriated to FTA prior to FY11. 

Q.   Is it true that all of the funding that is cut is attributable to New Jersey’s ARC project? 

A. No.  New Jersey’s ARC tunnel project, which was canceled by New Jersey’s governor, was scheduled to receive $200 million in New Starts funds in FY10 and the FTA requested an additional $200 million for that project in FY11. 

Let’s look at prior years first.  The $280 million rescinded from prior years was a combination of funding that had either not been directed to any project by Congress or was attributable to a project not moving forward.  FTA was given the discretion by Congress to distribute the funding to other projects.  In December 2010, FTA announced its intention to award the full $280 million to seven projects:

  • Dallas – Northwest/Southeast Light Rail
  • New York - Long Island East Side Access
  • New York Second Avenue Subway
  • Northern Virginia Dulles Corridor
  • Salt Lake City - Mid Jordan LRT
  • Weber County/Salt Lake City - Commuter Rail
  • Seattle - University Link 

For FY11, of the $400 million cut (compared to FY10 levels), only $200 million was attributable to the ARC project.  

Q.  What projects will be directly affected as a result of these cuts? 

A. The list of projects directly affected by the rescissions to prior year funding is included in the previous answer. 

For FY11, the CR provides FTA with a lump sum of $1.6 billion and does not specify which projects are to receive that funding.  The amount provided is enough to fully fund each of the projects with an existing or proposed Full Funding Grant Agreement or Project Construction Grant Agreement at the scheduled FY11 amount, with the exception of the New Jersey ARC tunnel project (canceled by New Jersey’s governor). 

Q.   How can projects be fully funded in FY11 if ARC only accounted for $200 million of the $400 million cut? 

A.   Of the $400 million cut in FY11 (compared to FY10 levels), $200 million is attributable to ARC.  That leaves $200 million to be cut from somewhere else.  But, the President requested about $180 million less for New Starts/Small Starts in FY11 than those programs received in FY10.  So $180 million of the remaining $200 million in cuts was not requested by the President and therefore was never allocated to any project.  The remaining $20 million in cuts will likely come out of the $44 million that was requested in FY11 for FTA to distribute to projects at its discretion 

Q.   What impact could these cuts have on the projects waiting in the New Starts/Small Starts pipeline? 

A. By reducing the New Starts/Small Starts program to $1.6 billion in FY11, HR1 would establish a new, lower baseline for the program, against which future funding levels will be considered.  

Why does the baseline matter?  Given the new focus in both the House and Senate on cutting federal spending, it will be harder to achieve increases in program funding levels.  The definition of what an increase is depends on where the baseline is set.  In other words, once the cut to New Starts/Small Starts goes through in the CR, a proposal to fund the program in FY12 at $2 billion would be seen as an attempt to increase spending compared to the new baseline of $1.6 billion.  

The bottom line is, these cuts could make it harder to grow the New Starts/Small Starts program in future years, and that could have a direct impact on those projects that are in the pipeline, advancing toward an FFGA or PCGA.  The smaller the program is, the longer those projects will have to wait before funding is available for them.  Such delays will raise the cost of projects due to inflation, borrowing costs, increasing land values, and other factors. 

Projects currently in the New Starts/Small Starts pipeline (defined as those which have been approved by FTA to enter preliminary engineering) include:

 Projects in Final Design:

  • Tucson, AZ  -  Streetcar
  • San Francisco, CA  - Third Street LRT Phase 2
  • Denver, CO  -  Eagle Commuter Rail
  • Hartford, CT  -  New Britain-Hartford Busway
  • Stamford, CT -  Urban Transitway Phase II
  • Wilmington, DE  -  Wilmington to Newark Commuter Rail Improvements
  • Orlando, FL  -  Central Florida Commuter Rail
  • Boston, MA  -  Assembly Square Station
  • St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN -  Central Corridor LRT
  • Providence, RI  -  South County Commuter Rail
  • Houston, TX  -  North Corridor LRT
  • Houston, TX  -  Southeast Corridor LRT

Projects in Preliminary Engineering:

  • Los Angeles, CA  -  Regional Connector Transit Corridor
  • Los Angeles, CA  -  Westside Subway Extension
  • Sacramento, CA  -  South Sacramento Corridor Phase 2
  • San Jose, CA  -  Silicon Valley Berressa Extension Project
  • Honolulu, HI  -  High Capacity Transit Corridor Project
  • Charlotte, NC  -  LYNX Blue Line Extension - Northeast Corridor
  • Portland, OR  -  Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project
  • Pawtucket, RI  -  Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station
  • Salt Lake County, UT  -  Draper Transit Corridor
  • Vancouver, WA  -  Columbia River Crossing Project

Projects in Project Development:

  • Mesa, AZ  -  Central Mesa LRT Extension
  • Fresno, CA  -  Fresno Area Express Blackstone/Kings Canyon BRT
  • Oakland, CA  -  East Bay BRT
  • Riverside, CA  -  Perris Valley Line
  • San Bernardino, CA  -  E Street Corridor sbX BRT
  • San Francisco, CA  -  Van Ness Avenue BRT
  • Fort Collins, CO  -  Mason Corridor BRT
  • Roaring Fork Valley, CO  -  VelociRFTA BRT
  • Jacksonville, FL  -  JTA BRT North Corridor
  • Grand Rapids, MI  -  Silver Line BRT
  • New York, NY  -  Nostrand Avenue BRT
  • Austin TX  -  MetroRapid BRT
  • El Paso, TX  -  Mesa Corrdior BRT
  • King County WA  -  RapidRide E Line BRT
  • King County WA  -  RapidRide F Line BRT
  • King County WA  -  West Seattle BRT (RapidRide)