Funding for Preliminary Engineering

TEA-21 established a new provision limiting the amount of §5309 funds that can be used for purposes other than final design and construction to 8 percent of total annual new starts funds. For FY 2001, this amounts to $84.67 million that can be used for planning and preliminary engineering purposes. The Administration’s FY 2001 budget recommends that these funds be allocated among the following ten projects. Current information indicates that these projects are among the strongest candidates in the new starts pipeline, based on the project ratings and degree of development.

Chicago/Metra Commuter Rail Projects

In addition to the South West Corridor project discussed earlier in this report, Chicago’s Metra commuter rail division is planning additional extensions and improvements on its Union Pacific West and North Central Service lines. Specifically, Metra plans to extend the Union Pacific West line from Geneva to Elburn, Illinois, and to construct 12 miles of an additional (i.e., second) mainline track along the North Central Service line.

The Union Pacific West project, also known as the Central Kane Corridor, is an extension of the existing 36-mile Union Pacific West line which currently provides service between Geneva and downtown Chicago. This project would extend the line eight miles west to Elburn, with two new stations serving Elburn and La Fox. The extension itself will use existing railroad track and right-of-way currently used by both Metra and the Union Pacific Freight railroad. The scope of the project includes multiple track and signal improvements, construction of two new stations and associated parking facilities, a new train yard, and the purchase of one diesel locomotive and eight bi-level passenger cars. This project will link the rapidly developing communities to the west of Chicago with the major employment center in the Chicago CBD. The total capital cost of the Union Pacific West extension and improvements project is estimated at $93.04 million, of which Metra is expected to seek $54.31 million (58 percent) in Federal new starts funding. Metra estimates that this project will serve 3,900 average weekday boardings by 2020, and 2,700 new riders. This project has been rated "medium" for project justification and "medium-high" for finance, based on FTA’s evaluation under §5309(e). This results in an overall project rating of "recommended."

As part of the proposed North Central Corridor project, Metra would construct a 12-mile second mainline track along the existing North Central Service commuter rail line. In addition to the second mainline track, this project includes track and signal upgrades, construction of five new stations and parking facilities, expansion of an existing rail yard, and the purchase of one new diesel locomotive and eight bi-level passenger cars. The 53-mile North Central Service provides service from downtown Chicago through suburban Lake County to Antioch, Illinois, on the Wisconsin border. The corridor includes the two most significant employment hubs in the six-county northeastern Illinois region, the Chicago CBD and the area surrounding O’Hare International Airport. Metra estimates that this project will serve an average of 8,400 average weekday boardings by 2020, with 8,000 daily new riders. The total capital cost is estimated at $117.90 million, of which Metra is expected to seek $110.90 million (62 percent) from the §5309 new starts program. This project has been rated "medium" for project justification and "medium-high" for finance, earning an overall rating of "recommended."

Metra initiated major investment studies (MISs) for both of these projects in April 1997, fulfilling the statutory requirement for an alternatives analysis. Both MISs were completed in August 1998, and both are included in the MPO’s long-range transportation plan and Transportation Improvement Program. FTA approved entry into preliminary engineering for both of these projects in December 1998. The preliminary engineering and environmental review process is expected to be completed during the summer of 2000.

Section 3030(a)(10) of TEA-21 authorizes the North Central project for final design and construction, and the Union Pacific West extension is authorized under Section 3030(a)(13). Through FY 1999, a total of $5.96 million was provided for these projects. An additional $24.53 million was provided in FY 2000, of which Metra allocated $22.80 million to these two projects. In order to continue their development, FTA recommends that a total of $10.00 million be provided to both of these projects in FY 2001, to be allocated by Metra according to its priorities.

Chicago CTA/Ravenswood Line Expansion

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is planning station expansions and track improvements to increase capacity on the 9.3-mile, 19-station Ravenswood Line, also known as the Brown Line. Built between 1900 and 1907, the line extends from Ravenswood on the north side of Chicago, past Wrigley Field to the downtown "Loop." There are approximately 90,000 jobs and 200,000 residents within walking distance of the line, not including the CBD, which carries approximately 104,000 riders on a typical weekday. The size of the century-old stations and platforms prevents the CTA from increasing the capacity of the line in response to increased demand for service. The proposed project would expand stations and platforms and straighten curves on the line, which would permit the CTA to increase service by operating eight-car trains.

This project is included in the financially constrained long range regional transportation plan developed by the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS), the local metropolitan planning organization, and was added to the Transportation Improvement Program in January 1999. The Ravenswood Line Expansion Project was approved for preliminary engineering in the fall of 1999.

The total capital cost of the Ravenswood expansion project is estimated at $327.00 million, of which the CTA is expected to seek $245.50 million (75 percent) in §5309 new starts funds. The line serves a dense corridor with mixed commercial, residential, and retail development, three major hospitals and a university, and a large CBD with nearly 340,000 jobs. This project has been rated "high" for justification and "medium-high" for local financial commitment, resulting in an overall project rating of "highly recommended."

The Ravenswood Line Expansion is authorized for final design and construction by Section 3030(a)(11) of TEA-21. A total of $1.49 million in §5309 new starts funds has been provided to this project through FY 1999. An additional $3.43 million was provided in FY 2000. In order to further the development of this project, it is recommended that $8.80 million be provided in FY 2001.

Cleveland/Euclid Corridor Improvement Project

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) is planning a 9.8-mile transit corridor along Euclid Avenue from Public Square in downtown Cleveland east to University Circle. The Euclid Corridor Improvement Project includes the creation of a 2.43-mile exclusive bus rapid transit (BRT) segment in the center median along Euclid Avenue from Public Square to University Circle; improvements to East 17th and East 18th Streets; and the creation of a "Transit Zone" with exclusive transit lanes on St. Clair and Superior Avenues. The BRT would be served by 60-foot electric trolleybuses with doors on both the right and left sides of the bus for passenger boarding and unloading; these vehicles would provide exclusive service on the BRT segment, and share the rest of the corridor with conventional buses.

Originally known as the "Dual Hub Corridor," GCRTA initially planned a rail link between downtown Cleveland and University Circle; the Euclid Corridor project was the TSM alternative developed as part of the project evaluation process. Instead of selecting the proposed rail project, however, in November 1995 the GCRTA Board of Trustees selected the Euclid Corridor Improvement Project as the locally-preferred alternative for the corridor. The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Council (the MPO) adopted a resolution in support of this project. This project entered final design in September 1996.

The total capital cost of the Euclid Corridor Improvement Project is estimated at $220.00 million, of which the GCRTA proposes to seek $135.00 million (61 percent) in §5309 new starts funds. The ECIP is expected to carry 29,500 average weekday boardings by 2025, and 2,400 daily new riders. An economic development plan has been developed in conjunction with this project, along with a set of streetscape design guidelines for the corridor to create a pedestrian-friendly environment. The business community has developed a proposal for rezoning the corridor to convert industrial areas to office uses and consolidating commercial and residential activities, and a privately commissioned study focuses on ways to revitalize retail activity. The Ohio Legislature and GCRTA have committed 80 percent of the funds from sources other than the §5309 new starts program, and the operating funds are considered stable and reliable. This project has a financial rating of "medium-high" and is rated "medium" for justification, earning an overall rating of "recommended."

Section 3030(a)(17) of TEA-21 authorized this project, described as the "Euclid Corridor Extension," for final design and construction. A total of $3.79 million in §5309 new starts funds has been provided for this project through FY 1999, and an additional $0.98 million was provided in FY 2000. In order to continue the development of this project, FTA recommends that $8.80 million be provided in FY 2001.

Little Rock/River Rail Project

The Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) is planning a 2.5-mile, 8-station vintage streetcar circulator system, traveling on existing right-of-way, that will connect the Alltel Arena, the River Market, and the Convention Center in downtown Little Rock to the communities of North Little Rock and Pulaski County. The line would also serve the site of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. Service would be provided with seven replica streetcars operating on a single track and powered by an overhead catenary.

The Little Rock River Rail Project was authorized by Section 3030(a)(36) of TEA-21 for final design and construction. A feasibility study was completed in 1997; no formal major investment study was conducted due to the limited scale of the project, the use of existing streets and rail right-of-way, and the low cost. FTA granted approval to enter preliminary engineering in May 1998, and final design in September 1999.

The total capital cost of this project is estimated to be $13.20 million, of which CATA proposes to seek $8.60 million (65 percent) in §5309 new starts funds. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $2.98 million for this project. Under §5309 (e)(8)(A), proposed new starts projects requiring less than $25.00 million in funds from the §5309 new starts program are exempt from the project evaluation process, and CATA has not submitted project evaluation data to FTA. Thus, there is no overall rating for this project. In order to provide the remainder of the Federal funds required to complete this project, it is recommended that $5.67 million be provided in FY 2001.

Maryland/MARC Commuter Rail Improvements

The Maryland Mass Transit Administration is proposing a series of major capital improvements for the Maryland Commuter Rail (MARC) system serving the Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC metropolitan areas. This proposed project includes the MARC Mid-day Storage Facility, the Penn-Camden Connection, and the Silver Spring Intermodal Transit Center. Total estimated capital costs for this project is $85.10 million, of which MTA is expected to seek $40.90 million (48 percent) in §5309 new starts funds.

The Mid-Day Storage Facility would be used for mid-day equipment layover, minor repairs, daily servicing and inspections of commuter rail trains within the Amtrak Yard at Union Station in Washington, D.C. Platforms that are currently used to store these trains are needed by Amtrak for its new high-speed trains. The Penn-Camden Connection is a six-mile connection between MARC’s Camden Station and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor that would provide access to a planned maintenance facility. This improvement would provide a new route for reverse-peak service on the Camden Line and permit special trains serving events at the Camden Yards and PSINet Stadium to resume. The Intermodal Transit Center project would relocate the MARC station in Silver Spring, Maryland to the existing Silver Spring Metrorail station, creating a full-service transit center at a major hub of activity. The transit center will permit safe and convenient passenger transfers among commuter rail, Metrorail, commuter and local bus service, and taxi, bicycle, pedestrian and automobile modes of travel.

The components of the proposed MARC Commuter Rail Improvements project are in varying stages of planning and project development. Preliminary engineering on the MARC Mid-Day Storage Facility is complete and final design is in progress. A preferred alignment for the MARC Penn-Camden Connection was selected in the 1995 MARC Master Plan Study, and a Categorical Exclusion on the MARC Silver Spring Intermodal Center is pending.

Section 3030(g)(2) of TEA-21 authorizes this project as part of the Frederick extension, and it will permit service improvements necessary to take full advantage of that extension. No summary rating has been assigned to this project. It was authorized as an addition to the Frederick extension, which was evaluated and issued an FFGA under the criteria and procedures in effect under ISTEA, and project sponsors have not yet provided sufficient information to rate the Commuter Rail Improvements project. Further, the proposed share of Federal funding from the §5309 new starts program is less than $25.00 million for each of the individual improvements, which would render them exempt from evaluation if MARC proceeds on each of the three project components separately. However, since this is a single project as authorized in TEA-21, it must be evaluated and rated according to §5309(e) in order to be eligible for an FFGA. A total of $2.98 million has been provided to MARC Commuter Rail Improvements project in FY 1999 and prior years, and an additional $1.47 million was appropriated in FY 2000. In order to further the development of this project, it is recommended that $10.00 million be provided in FY 2001.

Miami/South Miami-Dade Busway Extension

The Miami-Dade Transit Agency (MDTA) is planning an 11.5-mile, 12-station busway extension along US Route 1, between Cutler Ridge Mall near SW 200 Street and Florida City. The project is an extension of the existing 8.3-mile South Busway, which opened in February 1997 and serves Miami and the rapidly growing area to the south. The extension will improve travel time and transit access in the corridor along Route 1 in South Florida, which now has only limited service.

The total capital cost of the extension is estimated at $87.80 million, of which MDTA is expected to seek $61.30 million (70 percent) in §5309 new starts funding. The extension is expected to serve an average of 8,800 average weekday boardings and 3,000 daily new riders. The State of Florida has enacted an urban growth boundary which contains urban development to a 12-mile wide area of land between the Atlantic coast of Florida and the Everglades. This makes the land along the proposed South Busway extension one of the last undeveloped areas in South Florida and creates tremendous growth pressure in the area. The population in the South Busway corridor is expected to increase 155 percent by 2015, and employment by 21 percent. This project has been rated "medium" for both finance and project justification, earning an overall rating of "recommended."

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), undertook a major investment study in 1985, which recommended that a busway be constructed in the corridor extending from the Dadeland South Metrorail station south to Florida City. Phase I of this busway, the 8.3-mile segment to Cutler Ridge, was constructed with FHWA funds and opened in 1997. FDOT and FHWA completed a preliminary engineering report and draft environmental impact statement for this extension in December 1997. Final design on a five-mile portion of the South Busway is underway, and the remaining 6.5 mile segment is undergoing preliminary engineering.

Section 3030(a)(46) of TEA-21 authorizes the Miami South Busway Extension for final design and construction. To date, no §5309 new starts funds have been appropriated for this project. In order to support continued development of the South Busway Extension, it is recommended that $8.80 million be provided to this project in FY 2001.

Nashville/East Corridor Commuter Rail

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) of Nashville, Tennessee are planning a 31.1-mile, 5-station commuter rail line between downtown Nashville and the City of Lebanon in Wilson County. The East Corridor commuter rail system would operate on an existing rail line owned by the Nashville and Eastern Railroad Company (N&E), a governmental entity comprised of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Wilson County, Lebanon, Mt. Juliet, and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. Rolling stock and maintenance facilities would be leased from N&E.

The MTA and RTA initiated a study in 1996 to explore potential commuter rail service in the Nashville region. Six corridors were selected for further evaluation, and a 1998 study analyzed the capital costs for the three that were most promising. The East Corridor has been selected by the community as the first of these to be implemented. The East Corridor project was included in the regional long range transportation plan in September 1999, and FTA approved entry into preliminary engineering on November 30, 1999.

The total capital cost of this project is estimated at $30.00 million, of which MTA and RTA are expected to seek $20.90 million (70 percent) in new starts funding. Ridership is estimated at 1,400 average weekday boardings by 2006, and 700 daily new riders. Because the amount of §5309 new starts funding is less than $25.00 million, this project is exempt from the statutory evaluation process by §5309(e)(8)(A); no overall project rating has been assigned. The East Corridor project has a strong local backing; the Nashville area Commuter Rail Task Force includes the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, area business leaders, the metropolitan planning organization, the MTA and RTA, the Tennessee State Department of Transportation, CSX Railroad, and the N&E Rail Authority. All of these stakeholders were involved the selection of this project, which grew out of a study of six potential alternatives, as the local priority.

Section 3030(a)(50) of TEA-21 authorizes the "Nashville Commuter Rail" project for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, a total of $1.97 million has been appropriated for this project. In order to support the continued development of this locally-driven project, it is recommended that $8.80 million be provided to this project in FY 2001.

New York/LIRR East Side Access

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City is the lead agency in a proposal to increase the capacity of the commuter lines of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and provide direct access from suburban Long Island and Queens to Midtown Manhattan. The East Side Access project would involve the construction of a 4,600-foot tunnel from the LIRR Main Line in Sunnyside, Queens to the lower level of the existing tunnel under the East River at 63rd Street, and a 5,000-foot tunnel under Park Avenue from the 63rd Street tunnel into a new terminal on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. As part of this project, a new passenger station would be constructed at Sunnyside Yard to serve the growing Long Island City business district.

Overall, more than 351,000 average weekday boardings to both Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal would benefit directly from the LIRR East Side Access project by 2020, including 162,000 daily boardings serving Grand Central Terminal, 161,000 daily boardings serving Penn Station, and 5,500 daily boardings at the proposed Sunnyside station. The Grand Central Terminal is located in a uniquely high-density setting, where transit and walking are the dominant modes of transportation. Nearly 500,000 employees work within a ½-mile radius of the proposed station at the Grand Central Terminal. Future land use in the Manhattan central business district will continue to be shaped by dense office development; by 2020, population in the Grand Central Terminal area is forecast to increase by 4.4 percent, and employment by 21.3 percent. A trend toward more and upgraded office use in underway in Long Island City, near the proposed Sunnyside station. Zoning changes are pending that will permit four to five large office towers to be constructed in the area. New York City also grants zoning density bonuses for developer improvements to local transit, such as integrating station entrances into the proposed development. Total capital costs for this project are estimated at $4,350.00 million, of which MTA is expected to seek $2,175.00 million (50 percent) in §5309 new starts funds. This project has been rated "medium" for both finance and project justification, resulting in an overall project rating of "recommended."

A Major Investment Study was completed in March 1998, and the LIRR East Side Access project was endorsed by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (the local MPO) in June 1998. FTA approved this project for preliminary engineering in September 1998. MTA anticipates completion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in January 2000, the Final EIS by June 2000, and a Record of Decision by September 2000.

Section 3030(a)(54) authorizes the LIRR East Side Access project for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $43.76 million in §5309 new starts funds for the LIRR project; an additional $1.96 million was provided in FY 2000. In order to support continued development of this project, FTA recommends that a total of $10.00 million be provided in FY 2001, to be allocated according to local priorities.

New York/2nd Avenue Subway

MTA and New York City Transit (NYCT) are also studying options to improve mobility in the north-south corridor of Manhattan’s East Side, from South Ferry to 125th Street with potential connections in the Bronx. The East Side currently has only one rapid transit line, the Lexington Avenue line, which carries approximately 288,000 daily passengers to Manhattan and has been experiencing severe overcrowding. Options under consideration include a no-build scenario, a TSM alternative, and two new starts options. Both of the new starts options involve a new subway line under Second Avenue, which would permit express service from the Broadway Line to the 125th Street Station on the Lexington Avenue Line. One of these options would add to this a light rail line serving the Lower East Side and Lower Manhattan. Preliminary estimates put the total capital cost at $3.6 billion to $4.6 billion, depending on whether the light rail line is included. This project is included in the MPO’s long-range transportation plan, and the MTA Board programmed $700.00 million for environmental work, preliminary engineering, final design and initial construction activities. The major investment study and environmental work is scheduled to be completed in 2000.

The Second Avenue Subway is authorized for alternatives analysis and preliminary engineering as the "Manhattan East Side Link" under Section 3030(b)(39). No funds have been appropriated to date for the Second Avenue Subway. This project is closely related to the LIRR East Side Access project discussed above. By providing an alternative to the overburdened Lexington Avenue Line for East Side commuters, the Second Avenue Subway would improve service to LIRR passengers who transfer to the Lexington Avenue Line at Grand Central Terminal. In order to permit local decisionmakers to more fully study the potential benefits of this project, analysis of the Second Avenue Subway project must proceed in concert with work on the LIRR East Side Access project. In order to support this continued development, it is recommended that $5.00 million be provided to the Second Avenue Subway in FY 2001.

San Diego/Oceanside-Escondido Rail Project

The North County Transit District (NCTD) in northern San Diego County, California is planning to convert an existing 22-mile freight railroad corridor between Oceanside and Escondido into a rail transit line. The line would run east from the City of Oceanside through the cities of Vista and San Marcos and unincorporated portions of San Diego County, to the City of Escondido, using diesel multiple unit (DMU) rail vehicles. The alignment also includes 1.7 miles of new right-of-way to serve the campus of California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). The line is located along the State Route 78 corridor, the principal east-west corridor in the county. The complete 23.7-mile system would serve 15 stations, four of which would be located at existing transit centers. Passenger rail service would have exclusive use of the rail line during pre-defined hours of operation.

An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Oceanside-Escondido project was certified in 1990, and a separate EIR for the CSUSM alignment was certified in 1991. A Major Investment Study was not required under the procedures in effect at the time, based on concurrence from FTA, FHWA, the San Diego Association of Governments, Caltrans, the City of San Marcos, and NCTD. Advanced planning was completed in December 1995, and the Environmental Assessment/Supplemental Environmental Impact Report was completed in early 1997. FTA expects NCTD to request approval to enter final design in early 2000.

The total capital cost for this project is estimated at $253.50 million, of which NCTD is expected to seek $152.10 million (60 percent) in FTA §5309 new starts funds. Ridership is estimated at 15,100 average weekday boardings in 2015, and 8,600 daily new riders. The San Diego region is a "serious" nonattainment area for ground-level ozone and a "moderate" nonattainment area for carbon monoxide. This project will help to eliminate the heavy congestion of northern San Diego County along the Route 78 corridor, saving 700,000 hours of travel time a year compared to the TSM alternative. The project will serve large intermodal transit centers in both Oceanside and Escondido, and the corridor between contains a dispersed mix of commercial, industrial, and single- and multiple-family residential developments. This project is rated "medium-high" for both finance and justification, earning an overall rating of "highly recommended."

Section 3030(a)(77) of TEA-21 authorized this project for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $5.97 million in §5309 new starts funds for this project, and an additional $1.96 million was provided in FY 2000. In order to support continued development of this project, it is recommended that $8.80 million be provided for this project in FY 2001.