In Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012, our Federal Transit Administration signed more capital construction agreements for transit projects through its New Starts and Small Starts Program than in any two-year period in the agency’s history. That means that FTA is getting more transit projects started than ever before, bringing more communities the transportation options they want and need, and creating more jobs --hundreds of thousands of them-- at a time when families really need them.
Now, FTA is making a New Year's resolution to make it easier to submit projects for New Starts and Small Starts funding, and last week's Final Rule for Major Capital Investment Projects is a terrific first step. This revised approach streamlines the transit project approval process so communities can enjoy the benefits of transit more quickly.
The new rule reflects the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to strengthening public transportation across the nation as efficiently, effectively, and fairly as possible. It's also consistent with the President's Executive Order 13563, which called on Federal agencies to “modify, streamline, expand, or repeal” rules that may be “outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome.”
First, FTA is reducing regulations and red tape. FTA will allow project sponsors to bypass a detailed analysis of benefits that are unnecessary to justify a project. And FTA is developing methods that can be used to estimate necessary benefits using simpler approaches. Overall, these changes will significantly reduce the volume and complexity of the paperwork project sponsors have to submit.
That could save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year and help communities benefit from transit projects faster.
We know that good transit projects make communities safer for riders and greener for everyone. So, in addition to streamlining the review process, FTA is taking a more comprehensive look at a project's potential benefits. For the first time, the agency will consider the value of the anticipated benefits to human health, energy use, air quality, and safety. FTA will also factor in a project's expected effect on affordable housing.
As FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said, "These changes mean better and more realistic ways to determine a project's benefits. It's a huge win for communities that want to see more of their local transportation priorities become reality."
Now these are just some of the important changes in the revised New Starts and Small Starts program. The list goes on, and I encourage you to read more on the program's website.
More than ever, America needs quality transportation choices that improve mobility, enhance access to jobs, and encourage sustainable communities. I'm happy to see that FTA is getting 2013 started with a push in the right direction.