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.

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The budget proposal released by President Obama yesterday fleshes out the transportation ideas put out by the White House last week and includes specific grants for transit upgrades and expansions in 2015, but many of them won’t be part of this budget unless Congress agrees to increase funding for transportation. The White House budget proposes $17.6 billion […]