Fighting congestion on America’s roadways is the goal of a new massive investment in subway, light rail and commuter rail projects, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who recently announced a plan to spend $1.5 billion on transit programs in cities like Dallas, Denver, Portland and Salt Lake City.
The spending plan, included in President Bush’s budget submitted to Congress on Monday, Feb. 6, provides for multi-year funding for 23 existing projects, and five new projects eligible for funding based on progress in the months ahead.
“As a nation choked with congestion, we must turn to transit as one way to make it easier and faster to get to work, relieve crowded roads, and keep our economy moving,” said Secretary Mineta. “An investment in transit is an investment in fighting congestion.”
The recommendations are part of the Annual Report on New Starts for FY2007. The New Starts report includes $572 million in annual funding for 16 projects to which the federal government has already made long-term funding commitments, known as Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs).
New this year is $303 million in funding recommended for five new projects in four states. Of that, $35 million is set aside for Denver’s West Corridor Light Rail project for a 12-mile extension along the city’s second busiest traffic corridor. Another $80 million is slated for a 21-mile extension to the Dallas Light Rail system to fight congestion in and out of the city’s central business district.
Oregon has two new projects recommended for funding. First, $80 million is planned for an eight-mile extension of Portland’s “MAX” light rail line. Another $27.6 million is recommended for a 14.7-mile commuter line long the fast-growing Wilsonville-Beaverton Corridor in Washington County, Ore. In Utah’s Weber County, another $80 million is recommended for a 43-mile commuter rail line to provide surrounding communities with direct access to downtown Salt Lake City.
Under the plan, $355 million is available for two projects in New York City and Pittsburgh that are pending execution of FFGAs this year. Additionally, five projects based in northern Virginia, Norfolk, New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C., could be eligible for $102 million based on their progress this year.
“Because the FTA’s New Starts program requires proof of each project’s cost-effectiveness and benefits to the public, taxpayers can be assured that federal dollars are wisely invested in public transportation,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Sandy Bushue.