The results of the project evaluation process for this report are reported in Table 1. Ratings are established for proposed projects that are in Preliminary Engineering and Final Design only; projects undergoing Alternatives Analysis typically have not developed sufficient information for meaningful evaluation, since local decisions regarding the preferred alternative and scope of the project are still pending. Also not listed are projects for which FFGAs have already been issued, because the decision to award an FFGA represents a final determination of project justification and local financial commitment.
As in previous reports, FTA has identified several projects as "Not Rated." This year, "Not Rated" indicates that FTA has serious concerns about the information submitted for mobility improvements and cost effectiveness because the underlying assumptions used by the project sponsor may have produced an inaccurate representation of the benefits of the project. The principal source of inconsistencies has been in the definitions of the baseline alternative and the proposed New Starts project. These inconsistencies have made it impossible to isolate the impacts of the proposed project in terms of ridership, transportation benefits, operating and maintenance costs, capital costs, and cost-effectiveness. FTA will continue to work with project sponsors to validate assumptions, information, and projections. A rating for these projects will be made available to Congress and other interested parties when the issues are resolved.
In addition, in a few cases, project information has not yet been submitted by the project sponsor for FTA evaluation. In some cases, this is because the project has recently moved into Preliminary Engineering or is no longer considered an exempt project. In others, the project sponsor, for a variety of reasons, has not submitted updated information for evaluation. The rating for all of these projects is noted as "Not Yet Available." Like projects identified as "Not Rated," ratings for these projects will be made available to Congress and other interested parties when information is submitted and the project evaluation is complete.
Appendix A provides a more detailed profile for each project for which an FFGA has been issued or a Federal funding commitment is pending, as well as for projects in Final Design and Preliminary Engineering. Profiles for projects with FFGAs include a description, status, list of funding sources and map. Profiles for projects in Final Design and Preliminary Engineering include a description, status, list of funding sources, map, and a presentation of the project evaluation criteria and ratings. Each of these profiles includes a summary description that highlights the overall project ratings and presents key descriptive, cost and ridership data for the proposed New Starts project compared to its baseline alternative. Appendix B provides a brief description and status for other planning studies and projects which were authorized in Section 3030 of TEA-21, but which have not yet entered Preliminary Engineering.
As noted above, project evaluation is an ongoing process. The ratings contained in this report are based on project information available through November 2002. As proposed New Starts proceed through the project development process, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations are updated annually for purposes of this report, as well as at the time a request is made to enter into Preliminary Engineering, Final Design, or an FFGA. The Annual New Starts Report 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 full funding grant agreements should not be construed as a statement about the ultimate merits of the project, but, rather, an assessment of the projectís current strengths and weaknesses. It should be stressed, however, that the ratings reported in this document are final for purposes of the Presidentís Fiscal Year 2004 Budget Request. Updated project information and ratings will be reviewed as part of the budget development process for the next fiscal year.
Under Section 5309(e)(8)(A), proposed projects for which less than $25 million in Section 5309 Federal New Starts funding is sought are exempt from the project evaluation and rating process described above. Where the sponsoring agency believes that a proposed project meets this requirement, submission of project justification and financial commitment information to FTA is not required. However, exempt projects must still meet all planning, environmental, project management, and other requirements that demonstrate their readiness to advance into Preliminary Engineering and Final Design. Moreover, submitting project evaluation data maintains a proposed projectís eligibility for an FFGA should it be later determined that the Federal share will exceed $25 million. Therefore, sponsors of exempt projects are strongly encouraged to submit information on project justification and financial commitment.