Annual Report on New Starts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2005

Number C-02-04
1/28/2004
January 28, 2004

Dear Colleague:

I am pleased to provide you the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Annual Report on New Starts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2005.  This report makes recommendations for the allocation of over $1.5 billion for new fixed guideway systems and extensions to existing fixed guideway systems, also known as “New Starts,” for FY 2005.  It is a collateral document to the President’s FY 2005 budget submission to Congress. 

With the strong foundation provided by Congress and the technical assistance and oversight by FTA, New Starts grantees engage in one of the most rigorous financial planning, project development, and engineering processes in government.  The FY 2005 budget recommendation includes funding for 32 existing, pending, and proposed Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs), which are multi-year contractual agreements between FTA and project sponsors to implement major transit capital investments.  Located in every geographic area of the country and in cities of all sizes, these projects include commuter rail, light rail, heavy rail, and bus rapid transit.  When complete, they will carry over 243 million riders annually, save over 121 million hours in travel time benefits, and significantly improve air quality and mobility in America.

The Annual Report on New Starts also provides a snapshot of each project in development.  In addition to providing information to Congress, it serves as guidance to project sponsors, so that improvements can be made.  Since projects can be expected to continue to change as they progress through the development process, the ratings for projects that are not yet recommended for FFGAs should not be construed as a statement about the ultimate merits of these projects, but an assessment of each project’s current strengths and weaknesses.   

The criteria and measures supporting the project ratings presented in the Annual Report on New Starts for FY 2005 were the same as those used in the FY 2004 Report.  The FY 2004 Report included the transition to the cost-per-hour of transportation system user benefits as the measure for project cost effectiveness and placed greater emphasis on the share of non-New Starts funding when assigning both financial and overall project ratings.  In addition, the report encouraged project sponsors to improve the cost-effectiveness of projects that received a “low” rating on cost-effectiveness. The FY 2005 Report continues these important elements of our evaluation process.

Highlights of the FY 2005 New Starts Evaluation Process

Beginning this year, FTA invited New Starts project sponsors to submit information that demonstrates the anticipated economic development impacts of their proposed major transit capital investments.  FTA’s measure for these impacts is the same measure used for the cost effectiveness criteria – the annualized “cost per hour of user benefit” – but is based upon an alternative set of land use forecasts that reflect the additional development anticipated to occur as a result of the proposed New Starts project.  Only three project sponsors submitted such information for the FY 2005 New Starts evaluation.  Due to the limited number of sponsors submitting this information and FTA concerns about the submissions that were received, the factor has not been used in this year’s evaluation process.  Nevertheless, FTA is committed to further understanding and quantifying the economic development impacts of public transportation, and will work to improve guidance in this area and include such information in future reports. 
Transit-oriented development continues to be a key component of the success of New Starts projects in terms of both transportation and economic development.  FTA is extremely pleased by the progress made in a number of cities that have adopted transit-supportive land use plans and policies.  In every case, the local transit agency has played an important role in the development and adoption of these plans and policies.  The following projects being recommended for FFGAs in the FY 2005 Annual Report and that have been particularly successful in this arena are:  the Cleveland Euclid Corridor Transportation Project; the Pittsburgh North Shore Light Rail Connector; and the New York Long Island Rail Road East Side Access Project.
As noted earlier, FTA is placing increased emphasis on the cost-effectiveness of projects proposed for funding.  Over the past year, FTA assisted a number of proposed New Starts projects that received “low” ratings on cost-effectiveness in the FY 2004 Annual Report to improve their cost effectiveness, without sacrificing the transportation benefits of the projects.  These projects include: the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension in Los Angeles, the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project in Cleveland, and the North Shore Light Rail Transit (LRT) Connector in Pittsburgh.    


In addition, FTA helped or is helping several projects in preliminary engineering or final design to improve their cost effectiveness.  These include the Boston Silverline Phase III Bus Rapid Transit Project; the Charlotte South Corridor LRT Project in North Carolina; the Los Angeles Mid-City Exposition LRT Project; the Raleigh-Durham Regional Rail Project in North Carolina; and the Wilsonville-Beaverton Commuter Rail Project in Oregon.  To date, project sponsors have reduced costs by a combined $670 million with no diminution of transportation benefits as a result of FTA’s proactive cost management efforts.  FTA will continue to take an active role in helping project sponsors improve the cost effectiveness of their proposed major transit capital investments. 


FTA is also improving its oversight of the New Starts program by undertaking risk assessments on a number of projects in development.  These assessments identify the major areas of risk in a project and assist project sponsors in the development of risk mitigation plans to ensure that projects can meet their cost projections and implementation schedules.  These assessments provide FTA and Congress with much greater confidence in the capital cost estimates of candidates for New Starts funding.  FTA intends to conduct a risk assessment for every project prior to awarding an FFGA.


Five projects are not rated in the FY 2005 Report because of continuing concerns about the validity of the transportation benefits forecast for these projects.  FTA has contacted and continues to work with the sponsors of these projects to help develop valid travel demand assumptions, better information, and improved ridership projections for their proposed major transit capital investments.  Such projects have been listed as “Not Rated” for the project justification measures in this report.  Revised ratings for projects that have not been rated will be made available to Congress and other interested parties, as these issues are resolved. 


Funding Recommendations

Of the 29 existing and pending FFGAs included in this report, 27 are recommended for funding in FY 2005.  It is anticipated that the Federal funding commitments for the two remaining projects will be completed in FY 2004, based upon the funding levels identified in the Conference Report for the consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004.  In addition to the existing and pending FFGAs, FTA proposes that the following five additional projects be considered for multiyear funding commitments (FFGAs) in FY 2005:  
 
Cleveland Euclid Corridor Transportation Project


The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is proposing a 9.4-mile, 35 station, bus rapid transit (BRT) line along Euclid Avenue from Public Square in downtown Cleveland to the Stokes-Windermere Rapid Transit Station (Red Line) in East Cleveland.  The new BRT line will connect the region’s two largest employment areas and serve a number of large hospitals and educational and research facilities, including Cleveland State University and Case Western University.  Currently, this corridor suffers from severe transit delays due to antiquated traffic signaling, poor road configuration, excessive bus stops, and long bus dwell times.  To remedy these issues, the proposed Euclid Corridor Transportation Project will redistribute east-west bus routes through the central business district to University Circle via a fixed guideway BRT facility.  The project will serve approximately 195,350 jobs located within a one-half mile radius of the station areas.  Patrons of this new service will experience improved travel time, enhanced reliability and comfort, and other improvements associated with BRT service.  In addition, it is expected that this project will promote significant economic growth and revitalization in the Euclid Corridor.

Las Vegas Resort Corridor Fixed Guideway 


As a monorail system located in the fastest growing city in the country, this project will serve the northern portion of the Las Vegas “Strip,” which employs an estimated 235,000 people and draws 33 million tourists annually.  The project is a flagship for public-private partnership in public transportation, as the proposed segment will link to a privately-funded monorail system that is expected to be opening for revenue operations in February 2004.  Currently, the Regional Transportation Commission of Nevada operates a high level of bus service along this corridor; however, the combination of conventional bus service, private taxis, and shuttle buses between entertainment destinations along the corridor has led to heavy congestion.  The proposed project will decrease congestion along this corridor, while improving transportation access to the Las Vegas central business district and the Fremont entertainment district, and promoting economic development in the Main Street area.  It is anticipated that the Resort Corridor Fixed Guideway project will carry more than 40,000 riders daily.

New York Long Island Rail Road East Side Access


The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuter rail system carries more than 75 percent of workers to Manhattan’s business district from New York’s Nassau and Suffolk counties.  Currently, most LIRR commuters arrive at Penn Station in west Midtown, and nearly 50 percent of these people must transfer to other public transportation modes to reach their final destinations on Manhattan’s East Side.  As a result, overcrowded conditions exist in Penn Station and on the LIRR trains. To remedy this congestion, the New York LIRR East Side Access project will include the construction of a direct connection from Long Island/Queens under the East River and a new passenger terminal at Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s East Side.  The project will increase LIRR tunnel capacity under the East River by 45 percent, provide greater flexibility at New York’s Penn Station, and improve commute times for over 167,000 LIRR commuters.  With an estimated 700,000 jobs and 34,600 households located within one-half mile of the proposed stations, this project is expected to ease congestion and significantly shorten travel time for LIRR customers who use the Nation's largest commuter rail system.

Central Phoenix/East Valley LRT Corridor


Located in one of the fastest growing areas in the United States, Valley Metro Rail is looking to provide a transit alternative to congested roads and promote new development in key areas around the region.  Overall, Valley Metro is seeking to develop a 25-mile, light rail transit (LRT) system with 26 stations that will connect the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa.  The first segment of this project will involve construction of a 20.3-mile segment that will run southeast from the Chris-Town Mall in Phoenix, through the downtown areas of Phoenix and Tempe, ending in Mesa.  The project will serve as a focal point for new development along the Central Avenue corridor and in areas east of the Phoenix central business district, including Sky Harbor Airport, Tempe, and Mesa.  The project is notable for the number of major activity centers it will serve, including downtown Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona State University, Sky Harbor Airport, Papago Park Center, the Civic Plaza Convention Center, Bank One Ballpark, America West Arena, and Sun Devil Stadium.  In addition, this project will result in significant travel time benefits for non-work trips between Mesa, Tempe, and downtown Phoenix, and for students traveling by transit to
Arizona State University.  Valley Metro Rail estimates that the project will carry approximately 49,900 average weekday riders, including 28,300 daily new riders, by the year 2020. 

Pittsburgh North Shore LRT Connector 


The Port Authority of Allegheny County is proposing a 1.5-mile, four-station light rail transit (LRT) extension of its existing 25-mile LRT system.  Currently, there is limited transportation access between Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle business district and the North Shore area, a focal point for redevelopment within the city.  This LRT extension project will connect these areas, and link the Convention Center to the existing LRT station at Steel Plaza.  It will support existing and proposed development of the North Shore and deliver efficient transit service in established neighborhoods.  The project will also enhance accessibility to major sports events, cultural and civic facilities, and improve the linkage between North Shore fringe parking and Golden Triangle employment centers.  By providing more direct transit access between the North Shore and points to the south and east of the Allegheny River, the project will result in over 4,200 hours of travel time benefits each weekday as compared to bus service improvements.

Two other meritorious projects are recommended for funding to continue project development.  These projects have met the planning requirements of the New Starts program and the local communities have demonstrated support for their respective projects by committing a substantial amount of local and/or state funding.  These projects are:

Charlotte South Corridor LRT Project 


The Charlotte Area Transit System, in cooperation with the City of Charlotte, is proposing a 9.6-mile, 15 station light rail transit (LRT) system extending from Uptown Charlotte to Interstate 485 in south Mecklenburg County.  Interstate 77 and South Boulevard, the primary roadway options used by commuters traveling north-south along this corridor, experience heavy congestion during both the morning and evening rush hours.  With no ability to expand or improve the existing road capacity, the South Corridor LRT project will provide a transit alternative to these congested roads and will also serve as a focal point for new development along the corridor.  While over 107,000 jobs are forecasted within one-half mile of the stations by 2025, the South Corridor LRT system will also include park-and-ride lots and bus service transfer service at seven stations.  The project will serve a variety of travel markets including inbound and reverse commute work trips, as well as leisure trips to the Charlotte Arena (home of the future NBA Bobcats), Ericsson Stadium (home of the NFL Panthers) and the historic South End.  

Raleigh-Durham Regional Rail System


Located in one of the most congested travel corridors in the region, the Triangle Transit Authority is proposing a 35.2-mile, 16-station diesel multiple unit rail transit project.  The corridor includes 44 percent of the region’s current population and 62 percent of its employment, but it is projected that vehicle-hours of travel will increase from approximately 750,000 hours today to 1.7 million hours by 2025.  The Raleigh-Durham Regional Rail project is intended to provide a transportation alternative between the Raleigh, Research Triangle Park and Durham areas, where improvements to the highway system are unable to accommodate the projected demand.  The project also will promote economic development within the corridor.  The Regional Rail System will use existing North Carolina Railroad and CSX rail corridors to connect Duke University, downtown Durham, Research Triangle Park, Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Cary, North Carolina State University, downtown Raleigh and North Raleigh.  While there are approximately 80,000 jobs and 11,000 households within one-half mile of the proposed stations, this project will also include construction of 13 park-and-ride lots to accommodate up to 3,700 vehicles.

In addition to the projects anticipated to be ready for new FFGAs and funding in FY 2005, the enclosed report includes information on the 32 projects in the New Starts “pipeline” that are in preliminary engineering or final design.  These projects are located in 22 states and Puerto Rico, and in cities of all sizes, with populations from over five million to less than 500,000.  Spanning every means of public transportation service, from ferry boats to commuter rail to light rail to bus rapid transit, these projects can be expected to significantly enhance our Nation’s public transportation network in the years to come.

Sincerely,


Jennifer L. Dorn

Enclosure