Miami, Sacramento, Boston Transit Projects Still Seeking Federal Approval

Amid the good vibes yesterday over new federal funding agreements for transit projects in New York City, Oakland, Hartford, and other metro areas, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) also offered a spell of bad news to a few local proposals that are still working to meet the agency's standards for aid.

subway5.jpgAn extension of Miami's Metrorail is on the ropes in the fight for federal aid. (Photo: Laurel_blogger via Photobucket)
In its full report [PDF] on transit New and Small Starts, the FTA listed 14 transit projects in the "Preliminary Engineering" phase, with three of those receiving an overall project rating of Medium-Low. Projects need to receive an overall status of Medium or above in order to get federal funding, even after the FTA relaxed its former emphasis on cost-effectiveness.

So which three projects are still stuck in neutral when it comes to winning Washington's approval? Boston's Silver Line Phase III plan, a $1.7 billion tunnel that would connect Chinatown with the southern waterfront and the airport; Sacramento's South Corridor Phase II, a four-mile extension of local light rail estimated at $270 million; and Miami's Orange Line Phase II, a 9.2-mile extension of the city's Metrorail with a price tag of $1.3 billion.

Miami and Boston, having already gotten the cold shoulder in 2008, could face a permanent no from the feds if they cannot strengthen their proposals this year.

Interestingly, the three transit projects that have yet to reach a Medium rating got subpar evaluations of their local governments' financial contributions even though their proposed federal share of capital costs was comparable to the those for successful transit projects in Minneapolis and Denver. (Boston's preferred federal share stands at 60 percent, Sacramento's at 50 percent and Miami's at 47 percent.)

For the full skinny, check out page 13 of the FTA's report.