The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it’s changing the way it evaluates transit projects that are candidates for federal funding, and the new policy could benefit the Central Corridor light rail project.
In recent years, transit projects that seek funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts or Small Starts program have had to meet certain requirements under the federal “cost effectiveness index,” which is based primarily on the project’s cost and the number of riders it will serve, or the cost per trip.
On Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed new funding guidelines based on “livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits,” in addition to congestion relief, cost, and time saved, according to a DOT press release.
“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” LaHood said in prepared remarks. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”
John Schadl, communications director for U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., noted in an email that the announcement is “good news” for the $941 million Central Corridor project, which is a candidate to receive half of its funding from the federal government.
“Central Corridor, and all major transit projects, will now be re-rated under the new formulas as they are evaluated to be included on the list of New Start recommendations in the president’s budget,” Schadl noted.