USDOT Signs $790m Light Rail, Four Small Start Grant Agreements

In the last two weeks, the U.S. Department of Transportation has signed five grant agreements totaling $974 million in federal appropriations for new mass transit projects and extensions under the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program.

On January 22, the long-awaited $790 million grant award for the Federal Way Link Extension light rail project in the Seattle-Tacoma area was signed, along with the execution of a $629.5 million direct loan for the project from the federal government’s TIFIA loan program.

“Commuters in Seattle can now look forward to a one seat ride between King County, Sea-Tac Airport, downtown Seattle, and the University of Washington,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “This extension will improve access to jobs, healthcare, educational opportunities, and other destinations in the Puget Sound region.”

This is the third major multi-year “new start” rail project approved by the Trump Administration, after the Maryland Purple Line in August 2017 (CIG share: $900 million) and the Seattle Lynnwood Link extension in December 2018 (CIG share: $1.17 billion). FTA keeps saying that the grant agreement for the third section of the Los Angeles Purple Line (CIG share: $1.3 billion) is imminent, and four other projects with a combined CIG share of $2.65 billion are in the final pre-agreement “Engineering” phase of the program.

The Administration also signed four grant agreements for one-off “small start” CIG projects in the last ten days, clearing the decks for a new round of tentative project allocations to come with the transmission of the FY 2021 budget on February 10.

  • In Spokane, Washington, the Central City bus rapid transit project will receive $53.4 million in CIG funding towards a $72 million project to develop a 5.8 mile BRT line between the Browne’s Addition neighborhood and Spokane Community College.
  • In Portland, Oregon, the Division Transit Project will receive $87.4 million in CIG funding towards a $184.9 million project to develop a 15-mile BRT line between downtown Portland and Gresham, to the east.
  • In Albany, New York, the River Corridor bus rapid transit project will receive $26.9 million in CIG funding towards a $41.4 mile BRT project to run a 16-mile line between downtown Albany and Waterford.
  • In Jacksonville, Florida, the First Coast Flyer BRT Southwest Corridor project will receive $23.2 million in CIG funding towards a $33 million, 12.9-mile line from the Jacksonville Convention Center to the Orange Park Mall.

To date, the Trump Administration has signed 14 small start grant agreements totaling $681.7 million.

The CIG Small Starts Program Under the Trump Administration
Millions of dollars. As of January 31, 2020.
Signed Grant Agreements: FY17 FY18 FY19 FY20
FL WAVE Streetcar 10/12/17 $11.0
MI Laker Line BRT 2/9/18 $56.8
FL Jacksonville Flyer East 2/23/18 $16.9
MO KC Prospect MAX BRT 4/9/18 $29.9
WA Everett Swift II BRT 4/9/18 $43.2
IN Indy Go Red Line BRT 5/14/18 $50.0 $25.0
NM Albuquerque BRT 8/30/18 $50.0 $25.0
MN Minneapolis Orange BRT 6/19/19 $74.1
AZ Tempe Streetcar 9/24/19 $50.0 $25.0
NV Reno Virginia Street BRT 10/9/19 $40.4
WA Spokane Central City BRT 1/21/20 $53.4
OR Portland Division BRT 1/23/20 $87.4
NY Albany River Blue Line BRT 1/27/20 $26.9
FL Jacksonville SW Corridor BRT 1/27/20 $16.6
Subtotal, Allocated and Signed $307.8 $373.9 $0.0 $0.0
Allocated, but Unsigned:
CA Sacramento Riverfront Streetcar $50.0
WA Seattle Center City Streetcar $50.0
Subtotal, Allocated but Unsigned $100.0 $0.0 $0.0 $0.0
Unallocated and Unsigned $0.0 $27.0 $526.5 $100.0
Total Small Starts Appropriations $407.8 $400.9 $526.5 $100.0

The Administration may have to reallocate funds away from the two remaining allocated projects – the Sacramento streetcar project now appears dead, and the Seattle streetcar project is under criminal investigation. (We should point out that the latter is a City of Seattle project, not a Sound Transit project.)

If that money is reallocated elsewhere, the Administration will have $753.5 million in fiscal 2017-2020 appropriations to allocate towards more small starts projects in the future.

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