It’s “Transit Christmas” for These Bus and Train Projects in Obama’s Budget

LA Metro's expansion plans would get a boost with Obama's $100 million endorsement of the Purple Line extension. Photo: Wikipedia
LA Metro’s expansion plans would get a boost with $100 million for the Purple Line extension. Photo: Wikipedia

In addition to the broad strokes of transportation policy outlined by the White House yesterday, the Obama administration also put out a much more specific proposal: the list of transit expansion projects recommended for funding in fiscal year 2016. Jeff Wood of The Overhead Wire and Talking Headways fame called it “Transit Christmas.”

Though the budget enacted by Congress will no doubt differ from the administration’s budget, these recommendations from the Federal Transit Administration are significant. Many of the projects on last year’s list are now under construction.

Here’s a look at what’s in line for federal funding, starting with the list of grants for large expansion projects from the FTA’s “New Starts” program.

Major projects recommended for funding:

  • Los Angeles’ Westside Subway Extension, Section 2 — $100 million
  • San Diego’s Midcoast Corridor — $150 million
  • Denver’s Southeast Extension –$92 million
  • Baltimore Red Line — $100 million
  • Maryland Purple Line (Suburban D.C.) — $100 million
  • Minneapolis’ Southwest Light Rail — $150 million
  • Fort Worth’s TEX commuter Rail — $100 million

The big drama right now surrounds the Purple and Red line projects in Maryland, where newly elected Republican Governor Larry Hogan has threatened to cut off state support for the new transit lines if private partners don’t cover enough of the construction costs.

A second list of smaller projects in mid-sized cities are in line for funding from the FTA’s “Small Starts” program.

Smaller projects recommended for funding:

  • Fresno’s FAX Blackstone/Kings Canyon Bus Rapid Transit — $11 million
  • San Francisco’s Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit — $30 million
  • San Rafael to Larkspur Regional Connector — $20 million
  • Charlotte’s CityLINX Gold Line, Phase 2 — $75 million
  • Reno’s 4th Street/Prater Way Corridor — $6 million
  • Columbus’ Cleveland Avenue Bus Rapid Transit — $38 million
  • El Paso’s Montana Avenue Bus Rapid Transit — $27 million
  • Provo Orem Bus Rapid Transit — $71 million
  • Tacoma’s Link Light Rail Extension — $75 million

These projects are mostly bus rapid transit and light rail — there are not as many streetcar projects as in other recent rounds of funding. The administration may be responding to the increasing scrutiny devoted to mixed-traffic streetcars and whether they generate sufficient ridership to justify their costs.

  • egoldin

    The Fresno BRT project could really revolutionize getting around. Transit just isn’t a reasonable option there today.

  • Mark

    San Francisco is hardly a mid-sized city, especially compared to Denver or Minneapolis. The problem with SF is that it’s trapped in the past when it comes to transit improvements and projects. Bay Area traffic continues to worsen with little to no regional relief in sight. (Sorry, BART to the far edge of San Jose hardly consitutes a sound transit project when it takes an hour (or longer) on the 38-Geary bus to get from one side of SF to the other.)

    I’m glad that the administration is looking at the efficacy of streetcars in mixed-traffic. In SF, the MUNI system turns from a light rail operation in the Market St. tunnel to a glorified streetcar system on the surface, hardly a rapid transit system.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I’d call it “Transit Christmas (proposed)” as it’s unlikely Congress will approve these numbers as-is. But a decent starting point for sure.

  • Larry Littlefield

    What’s the local match on the rail projects? 90 percent?

    These figures, in many cases, don’t seem to be enough to cover the added costs of doing projects with federal money.

  • Bruce

    I thought the Van Ness BRT was already funded and ready to go in the ground come 2017 or 18. I guess not?

  • Harvey Kahler

    Those “big” projects hardly can be for construction without another zero. Highway aren’t cheap either. The problem is there is no space and capacity available on surface streets; and transit reservations in streets to speed service, whether LRT or BRT, come at the cost of a reduction of accessibility and capacity.

  • Greg Costikyan

    True for the most part, albeit I’ll note the T and J do have dedicated lanes down Embarcadero and Townsend. I’d also note that this can changed, with some effort; e.g., the Bergen-Hudson light rail in NJ began largely in shared traffic, but Jersey City, in particular, has reconfigured streets over the years since it was first launched to give it dedicated right of way along much of its length. I’d certainly like to see that happen to the N on its western extension, which is a nightmare at present.

  • Sounder

    FTA New Starts isn’t supposed to cover 100% of the project costs, but generally 50% to 75%.

  • Harvey Kahler

    CTA in Chicago is projecting a cost of over $200m just to rebuild one station similar to similar ones rebuilt for under $100m just a few years ago; and a proposed five mile extension of the Red Line, mostly along a railroad right of way, now exceeds $2b. Someone once said that a railroad isn’t built to carry freight and passengers, but to make money – that might apply for somebody with today’s public
    infrastructure projects.

  • neroden

    I am getting really tired of stupid Republican governors. I realize they’re just brain-damaged due to childhood lead exposure, but could we please stop electing them? Best way to avoid lead-poisoned politicins is to only elect those born after 1986 when lead was eliminated from auto gasoline in the US.

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