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Summary of the Federal Transit Administration’s FY2013 New Starts/Small Starts Report

Overview

On January 31, 2012, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued its FY 2013 Annual Report on Funding Recommendations for the Capital Investment Grant Program. The Capital Investment Grant Program provides funding for new transit systems, or extensions to existing systems, including heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, streetcars, bus rapid transit (BRT), and ferries. The Capital Investment Grant Program includes two categories of projects, referred to as New Starts and Small Starts. New Starts projects include requests of $75 million or more in Capital Investment Program funds or anticipate a total capital cost of $250 million or more. Small Starts projects include requests of less than $75 million in Capital Investment Program funds and anticipate a total capital cost of less than $250 million.

The total budget recommended for the Capital Investment Grant Program in the President’s FY 2013 budget is $2.235 billion. For New Starts, FTA recommended $1.932 billion for allocation to projects with existing or proposed Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs).1  Twelve projects have existing FFGAs, for which FTA is requesting $1.17 billion. Six projects are being proposed for a new FFGA in FY2013, for which $765.66 million is requested. The request also includes $120 million for three projects expected to reach the final design stage of project development during 2012. These projects may receive an FFGA if there is necessary progress during FY 2013.

FTA further recommended $127.57 million for allocation to Small Starts projects for Project Construction Grant Agreements (PCGA).2  The budget proposal also includes a 2.5 percent set-aside for management and oversight totaling $55.89 million, an increase over last year’s set-aside, reflecting the growing number of projects entering the Capital Investment Grant program as well as “FTA’s strong desire to enhance its stewardship and oversight of a set of increasingly complex major capital projects.”

Quick Facts

  • Overall, 30 projects are recommended for funding, in 15 states.
  • 12 existing FFGAs are recommended for funding, in 9 states.
  • 6 proposed FFGAs are recommended for funding, in 4 states.
  • 9 proposed PCGAs are recommended for funding, in 6 states.
  • 3 New Starts projects, in 2 states, are recommended for funding if sufficient progress is made in final design.
  • Of the 21 recommended and potential future New Starts projects, 12 are light rail, 6 are subway/heavy rail, 2 are commuter rail, and 1 is bus rapid transit. All of the Small Starts projects are bus rapid transit systems except for one light rail extension in Mesa, AZ.
  • For New Starts projects with existing or proposed FFGAs, the average proposed federal FY 2013 allocation is $859 million and the average New Starts share of total capital costs is 45.2 percent. In FY 2012 the average New Starts share of total capital costs was 49 percent.
  • For Small Starts projects with existing or proposed PCGAs, the average proposed federal FY 2013 allocation is $48 million and the average Small Starts share of total capital costs is 66 percent. In FY 2012 the average Small Starts share of total capital costs was 57 percent.

Changes Since Last Year

Since the publication of the FY 2012 Annual Report in February 2011, several New and Small Starts projects have or will soon receive Full Funding Grant Agreements or Project Construction Grant Agreements:

New Starts Projects Receiving FFGAs

  • Denver, Co: Eagle Commuter Rail
  • Hartford, CT: New Britain-Hartford Busway
  • Orlando, FL: Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit Initial Operating Segment
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN: Central Corridor LRT
  • Houston, TX: North Corridor LRT
  • Houston, TX: Southeast Corridor LRT
  • Draper, UT: Draper Transit Corridor

New Starts Project with FFGA Pending Congressional Review

  • San Jose, CA: Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project

Small Starts Projects that Received PCGAs

  • San Bernardino, CA: E Street Corridor sBX BRT
  • Fitchburg, MA: Commuter Rail Improvements

Small Starts Project with PCGA Pending Congressional Review

  • Austin, TX: MetroRapid Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project

In addition, since the publication of the FY 2012 Annual Report in February 2011, several New Starts projects have been approved for preliminary engineering or final design. Also, several Small Starts projects have been approved for project development:

New Starts Projects Approved into Final Design

  • San Jose, CA: Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project
  • Honolulu, HI: High Capacity Transit Corridor Project
  • Portland, OR: Portland-Milwaukee Light Rail Project

New Starts Projects Approved into Preliminary Engineering

  • San Diego, CA: Mid-Coast Corridor
  • Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Red Line
  • Bethesda to New Carrollton, MD: Maryland National Capital Purple Line
  • Minneapolis, MN: Southeast Corridor LRT

Small Starts Projects Approved into Project Development

  • Jacksonville, Fl: JTA BRT Southeast Corridor
  • Eugene, OR: West Eugene Emerald Express BRT
  • El Paso, TX: Dyer Corridor BRT

Four exempt projects (those seeking less than $25 million in Capital Investment Program funds) have received all of the appropriations needed for their project since the publication of the FY 2012 Annual Report in February 2011. Therefore, the projects are no longer included in the report. These projects are as follows:

  • Tucson, AZ: Tucson Streetcar
  • Stamford, CT: Stamford Urban Transitway Phase II
  • Providence, RI: South Corridor Commuter Rail
  • Boston, MA: Assembly Square

Discussion

The New Starts and Small Starts programs have been extremely successful in bringing new or improved transit service to communities around the country. These major capital investments in transit infrastructure have stimulated economic development, improved commute times, and in the long-run will reduce costs for both government entities and individual households. As a result, the demand for investment in transit projects like these is significant, and greatly exceeds the current capacity of the New Starts and Small Starts programs. A recent analysis by Reconnecting America found more than 640 major transit projects being planned around the country. The U.S. Congress is currently considering multi-year transportation reauthorization bills that will continue funding the New Starts and Small Starts programs essentially at their current levels – far less than would be needed to bring even a small percentage of these projects into reality.

As part of the reauthorization, both the FTA and the Congress are proposing changes to the New Starts and Small Starts programs to shorten the time it takes to complete a major transit project (currently estimated at approximately 13 years, on average). The Annual Report on Funding Recommendations explains FTA’s proposal that the Capital Investment Program be streamlined into one set of project evaluation criteria rather than separate New Starts and Small Starts categories with different evaluation and rating criteria. Sponsors of projects seeking more than $100 million in Capital Investment Grant funds would receive construction funding through a Full Funding Grant Agreement and sponsors seeking less than $100 million in Capital Investment Grant Program funds would receive construction funding through a simplified Project Construction Grant Agreement. Projects could possibly be “exempt” from the evaluation and rating process if the project sponsors seek less than $100 million in program funds with the request representing less than 10% of the project’s anticipated total capital cost. These exempt projects would only be subjected to basic Federal grant requirements. It is important to note, however, that these proposed changes would require Congressional approval to take effect.

At the same time, FTA is revising the methodology by which they evaluate New Starts and Small Starts projects. In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in January 2012, FTA proposed evaluation changes designed both the streamline the project development process and to capture a broader range of the benefits that transit projects provide. Given the changes being proposed by FTA as well as by the House and the Senate in reauthorization, the New Starts and Small Starts process could change significantly in the next few years, shortening the timeline for project development and potentially creating a different mix of project types than exists today. Still, under no scenario currently on the table do the New Starts and Small Starts programs grow sufficiently to meet the demand for transit in America.

Footnotes:

  1. A Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) is a contract between the project sponsor and the Federal Transit Administration that formally establishes the maximum level of New Starts funding and outlines the terms and conditions of federal financial participation.
  2. A Project Construction Grant Agreement is a contract that sets the terms and conditions for Small Starts funding, as an FFGA does for New Starts funding.

Appendix A

A summary table of FY 2013 projects with existing or proposed FFGAs, their recommendation amount, total project cost and total New or Small Starts funding amount is provided below. More details on these programs can be found read on the FTA website.

Table 1: Summary of FY 2012 New Starts and Small Starts Funding

 

FY 2013 President’s Budget

Total Project Cost

Total New or Small Starts Funding

Existing Full Funding Grant Agreements

CO Denver, Eagle Commuter Rail

$150,000,000

$2,043,143,000

$1,030,449,000

CT Hartford, New Britain- Hartford Busway

$58,715,922

$567,053,000

$275,300,000

FL Orlando, Central Florida Commuter Rain Transit-Initial Operating Segment

$30,080,650

$357,225,011

$178,612,505

MN St. Paul-Minneapolis, Central Corridor LRT

$98,443,694

$956,900,000

$473,950,000

NY New York, Long Island Rail Road East Side Access

$215,000,000

$7,386,003,583

$2,632,113,826

NY New York, Second Avenue Subway Phase I

$123,384,621

$4,866,614,468

$1,300,000,000

TX Dallas, Northwest/Southeast LRT MRS

$79,030,569

$1,406,215,977

$700,000,000

TX Houston, North Corridor LRT

$100,000,000

$756,008,000

$450,000,000

TX Houston, Southeast Corridor LRT

 $100,000,000

$822,919,000

$450,000,000

UT Salt Lake County, Draper Transit Corridor

     $5,716,600

$193,641,000

$116,184,600

VA Northern Virginia, Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project—Extension to Wiehle Ave.

  $96,000,000

$3,142,471,634

$900,000,000

WA Seattle, University Link LRT Extension

$110,000,000

$1,947,682,000

$813,000,000

 

Pending Full Funding Grant Agreements

CA Sacramento, South Sacramento Corridor Phase 2

$45,660,000

$270,000,000

$135,000,000

CA San Francisco, Third Street Light Rail Phase 2 – Central Subway

$150,000,000

$1,578,300,000

$942,200,000

CA San Jose, Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project

$150,000,000

$2,330,021,971

$900,000,000

HI Honolulu, High Capacity Transit Corridor Project

$250,000,000

$5,125,955,000

$1,550,000,000

OR Portland, Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project

$100,000,000

$1,490,350,173

$745,175,087

 

New Full Funding Grant Agreement

NC Charlotte, LYNX Blue Line Extension – Northeast Corridor

$70,000,000

$1,069,217,178

$534,608,570

 

Other Major Capital Investment Program Funding Recommendations

CA Los Angeles, Regional Connector Transit Corridor

$31,000,000

$1,342,541,000

$671,265,090

CA Los Angeles, Westside Subway Extension

$50,000,000

$5,662,347,180

$2,399,524,000

WA Vancouver, Columbia River Crossing Project

$39,000,000

$3,507,872,000

$850,000,000

 

Project Construction Grant Agreement Funding Recommendations

AZ Mesa, Central Mesa LRT Extension

$20,000,000

$198,490,000

$74,999,999

CA Fresno, Fresno Area Express Blackstone/Kings Canyon BRT

$10,000,000

$48,188,000

$38,550,000

CA Oakland, East Bay BRT

$0

$205,481,000

$74,999,999

CA San Francisco, Van Ness Avenue BRT

$10,000,000

$125,633,000

$74,999,999

FL Jacksonville, JTA BRT North Corridor

$19,074,600

$33,482,000

$26,785,000

FL Jacksonville, JTA BRT Southeast Corridor

$19,101,000

$23,877,000

$19,101,000

MI Grand Rapids, Silver Line BRT

$14,744,000

$35,285,000

$28,228,000

OR Eugene, West Eugene EmX Extension

$19,410,136

$95,567,000

$74,999,999

TX El Paso, Dyer Corridor

$15,237,058

$35,251,663

$20,407,094

Oversight Activities

$55,887,150

 

 

 

TOTAL

$2,235,486,000

 

 

Source: “Annual Report on Funding Recommendation”, Federal Transit Administration, 2013

Appendix B

Even if the funding request is approved, New Starts or Small Starts funding covers only a share of the project’s total capital costs. In the FY13 recommendations, the total amount of capital costs covered by New or Small Starts funding ranges from a high of 80% (JTA BRT North Corridor, BRT Southeast Corridor and Silver Line BRT) to a low of 24.2% (Columbia River Crossing Project). The share of capital costs covered by New or Small Starts funding for the projects recommended in the Report is provided below.

Table 2: Summary of New Starts and Small Starts Funds Share of Capital Costs for Existing FFGAs, Projects in Final Design, Preliminary Engineering and Project Development Stages

 

New or Small Starts Funds Share of Capital Costs

Existing FFGAs

CO Denver, Eagle Commuter Rail

50.4%

CT Hartford, New Britain – Hartford Busway

48.5%

FL Orlando, Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit

49.9%

MN St. Paul-Minneapolis, Central Corridor LRT

49.5%

NY New York, Long Island Rail Road East Side Access

35.6%

NY New York, Second Avenue Subway Phase I

26.7%

TX Dallas, Northwest/Southeast LRT MOS

49.8%

TX Houston, North Corridor LRT

59.5%

TX Houston, Southeast Corridor LRT

54.7%

UT Salt Lake County, Draper Transit Corridor

60%

VA Northern Virginia, Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

28.6%

WA Seattle, University Link LRT Extension

41.7%

 

Final Design

CA San Francisco, Third Street Light Rail Phase 2 – Central Subway

59.7%

CA San Jose, Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project

38.6%

DE Wilmington, Wilmington to Newark Commuter Rail Improvements

31.9%

HI Honolulu, High Capacity Transit Corridor Project

30.2%

OR Portland, Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project

50.0%

 

Preliminary Engineering

CA Los Angeles, Regional Connector Transit Corridor

50.0%

CA Los Angeles, Westside Subway Extension

42.4%

CA Sacramento, South Sacramento Corridor Phase 2

50.0%

CA San Diego, Mid Coast Corridor Transit Project

  49.4%

MD Baltimore, Red Line

50.0%

MD Maryland National Capital Purple Line

50.0%

MN Minneapolis, Southwest LRT

50.0%

NC Charlotte, LYNX Blue Line Extension – Northeast Corridor

50.0%

RI Pawtucket, Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station

46.6%

TX Houston, University Corridor LRT

50.0%

WA Vancouver, Columbia River Crossing Project

24.2%

 

Small Starts Project Development

AZ Mesa, Central Mesa LRT Extension

37.8%

CA Fresno, Fresno Area Express Blackstone/Kings Canyon BRT

80.0%

CA Oakland, East Bay BRT

36.5%

CA San Francisco, Van Ness Avenue BRT

59.7%

FL Jacksonville, JTA BRT Southeast Corridor

80.0%

FL Jacksonville, JTA BRT North Corridor

80.0%

MI Grand Rapids, Silver Line BRT

80.0%

OR Eugene, West Eugene EmX Extension

78.5%

TX El Paso, Dyer Corridor BRT

57.9%