Streamlining the New Starts project timeline


Dear Colleague,

I am pleased to provide an update on the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA’s) continuing efforts to reduce the project development timeline under the Section 5309 New Starts Program. In support of FTA’s obligation to ensure that sponsors can complete their projects within budget and on schedule and to facilitate faster project delivery, we have developed a more streamlined process for risk assessments.

The risk assessment process is a valuable tool that FTA relies on to protect the interests of the taxpayer and the transit user. Streamlining the risk assessment process recognizes the value of tailoring it to the specific needs and characteristics of projects and their sponsors. In essence, we will no longer take a “one size fits all” approach. As I stated at the American Public Transportation Association’s 2011 Rail Conference in Boston, MA, FTA estimates that the amount of time that can be saved as a result of a streamlined risk assessment process could be as much as six months for some projects.

FTA is committed to further streamlining the New Starts process while maintaining program integrity and this is just one of several actions that we are taking to reduce the overall New Starts project planning and development process. This is a collaborative effort being spearheaded by two of FTA’s newest Associate Administrators, Henrika Buchanan-Smith of Program Management and Lucy Garliauskas of Planning and Environment. For more programmatic details on the streamlining of FTA risk assessments, please see the attached letter from Associate Administrators Buchanan-Smith and Garliauskas.

Finally, please be aware that on September 13, 2011, FTA published a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to transform the current regulation for Project Management Oversight (49 C.F.R. Part 633) to a discrete set of standards for project sponsors’ management of major capital projects—both New Starts and Fixed Guideway Modernizations. You can find the NPRM at pages 56363-56381 of the September 13th issuance of the Federal Register or at The proposed rule includes an appendix that explains the role of risk assessments as a vital part of FTA’s risk-informed project management oversight, and the basic principles and procedure for risk assessment. I invite you to review and comment on this NPRM before the November 14, 2011 deadline.


Peter Rogoff