Pending Federal Funding Commitments

In addition to the funding recommendations for existing Federal commitments discussed above, new commitments are pending for two additional projects. In anticipation of these commitments, FTA recommends that a total of $79.10 million be allocated to these projects in FY 2003. These projects have been rated as “recommended” or “highly recommended” under the criteria and processes specified by TEA-21. The funding recommendations described below are based on the anticipated funding needs of each project in FY 2003. Both of these projects have been authorized by TEA-21 for final design and construction.

New Orleans/Canal Streetcar Line

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is developing a 5.43-mile streetcar project in the downtown area, along the median of Canal Street. The Canal Streetcar Spine will extend from the Canal Ferry at the Mississippi River in the central business district, through the Mid-City neighborhood to Carrolton Avenue, where one branch will continue on Canal Street to the Cemeteries and another will follow Carrollton Avenue to City Park/Beauregard Circle. The corridor is located in an existing, built-up area that was originally developed in the streetcar era. Much of the corridor lies within the central business district and historic areas, where employment and housing densities, mix of uses, and pedestrian-oriented development are generally good. The central business district includes a high-density mix of office, retail, hotels and leisure attractions. The total capital cost of this project is estimated at $161.30 million, of which RTA is seeking $129.05 million (80 percent) in §5309 New Starts funding.

RTA completed a major investment study for this project in March 1995, fulfilling the requirement for an alternatives analysis. FTA approved entry into preliminary engineering in September 1995, and RTA initiated final design activities in September 1997. Final design is essentially complete, contracts for vehicle assembly have been awarded, and construction contracts were awarded in early 2001. This project has been rated “medium-high” for project justification and “medium” for local financial commitment, earning it an overall rating of “recommended.” RTA expects to open this line in July 2004. In the year 2015, RTA estimates that 31,400 average weekday boardings, including 5,300 daily new riders, will occur on the Canal Streetcar Line.

Section 3030(a)(51) of TEA-21 authorizes the New Orleans Canal Streetcar Project for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated a total of $55.18 million for this project; $14.85 million was appropriated in FY 2002. FTA anticipates that RTA will be ready for an FFGA for this project before the end of FY 2002. In preparation for this expected commitment, FTA recommends that a total of $37.10 million be provided to the Canal Streetcar Project in FY 2003.

Oceanside-Escondido Rail Corridor

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 will 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. Advance planning was completed in December 1995, and the Environmental Assessment/Supplemental Environmental Impact Report was completed in early 1997. FTA approved NCTD’s request to enter final design in February 2000.

The total capital cost for this project is estimated at $332.30 million, of which NCTD is seeking $152.10 million (46 percent) in FTA §5309 New Starts funds. Ridership is estimated at 15,100 average weekday boardings in 2015, of which 8,600 would be daily new riders. Revenue operations are scheduled to begin in January 2004. This project will help to alleviate the heavy congestion of northern San Diego County along the Route 78 corridor. 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 2001, Congress has appropriated $17.84 million in §5309 New Starts funds for this project, and an additional $6.44 million was provided in FY 2002. FTA anticipates that NCTD will be ready for an FFGA for this project before the end of FY 2002. In preparation for this expected commitment, it is recommended that $42 million be provided for this project in FY 2003.