As noted above, the project ratings of “Highly Recommended,” “Recommended,” and “Not Recommended” are intended to reflect the overall merits of each project. A rating of “Recommended” does not translate directly into a funding recommendation in any given fiscal year. Rather, the overall project ratings are intended to reflect overall project merit. Proposed projects that are rated “Recommended” or “Highly Recommended,” are eligible for multi-year funding recommendations in the Administration's proposed budget if other project readiness requirements have been met and if funding is available.
In determining which projects can be expected to be ready for an FFGA and thus be recommended for funding in the Administration’s budget proposal, FTA applies strict tests for readiness and technical capacity. To ensure that the recommended projects are fully developed, FTA verifies that no outstanding project scope or cost issues remain (e.g., rail right of way acquisition issues), and that there are no remaining local financial commitment issues.
When recommending annual funding allocations among proposed New Starts, the following general principles are applied:
- Existing FFGA commitments should be honored, to the extent that funds can be obligated for these projects in the coming fiscal year, before any new funding recommendations are made.
- The FFGA defines the terms of the Federal commitment to a specific project, including funding. Upon completion of an FFGA, the Federal funding commitment has been fulfilled. Additional project funding will not be recommended. Any additional costs beyond the scope of the Federal commitment are the responsibility of the grantee.
- Any project recommended for new funding commitments must meet the project justification, finance, and process criteria established by Section 5309(e) and be consistent with Executive Order 12893, "Principles for Federal Infrastructure Investments," issued January 26, 1994.
- Firm funding commitments, embodied in FFGAs, will not be made until the Final Design process has progressed to the point where uncertainties in estimated costs, benefits, and impacts have been minimized, so that additional work would not be expected to significantly improve these estimates. Funding should be provided to the most highly rated projects to allow them to proceed through the process on a reasonable schedule, to the extent that funds can be obligated to such projects in the upcoming fiscal year.
- Funding for initial planning efforts such as Alternatives Analysis is provided through the Section 5303 Metropolitan Planning or Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Grants programs. FTA does not support the use of Section 5309 funds for initial planning activities. Moreover, Section 5309(m)(2) limits the amount of New Starts funding that can be used for purposes other than Final Design and Construction to not more than eight percent of the funds appropriated.