- The Federal Transit Administration has issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the $4.7 billion, six-mile BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Silicon Valley Phase II extension into downtown San Jose and Santa Clara, California, allowing the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to start engineering work for the project and to apply for a $1.5 billion New Starts FTA grant.
- In order to qualify for the ROD, the authority had to meet National Environmental Policy Act requirements, which include an assessment of alternatives, a review of public comments and responses, and the identification of actions that will be necessary to mitigate potentially harmful effects of the project. The project will include four stations — three underground and one above — a five-mile subway tunnel, 48 heavy rail vehicles and a maintenance facility. BART will operate the line after its scheduled completion in 2026.
- In addition to the New Starts funds, the VTA will pay for the project through various sources: $1.5 billion from the Measure B half-cent sales tax; $1 billion from the Measure A half-cent sales tax; up to $750 million from the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program and $160 million from the California Traffic Congestion Relief Program. The joint venture of HNTB and WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff will oversee the project under an $88.3 million, four-year program management contract with the VTA.
The federal contribution to a New Start project cannot exceed 80% of its value, but the average funding amount is just a little more than 62%. Either way, state and local transportation agencies have to hustle up what the FTA does not cover. For example, the FTA is paying more than $1 billion toward the $2.1 billion Red and Purple Line Modernization rail project in Chicago, and the Chicago Transit Authority put together the rest from a combination of Tax Increment Financing bonds and revenues, cash and money collected from an authority sales tax.
Before the FTA would commit, however, the CTA had to prove it had secured what the agency did not cover. This is a typical demand for projects in line for federal grants, and usually non-federal sources are on board with the process.
But last month in North Carolina, state lawmakers upset that balance when they revised a provision in the most recent state budget to require a federal funding commitment before giving their approval for a major project like GoTriangle's $2.4 billion Chapel Hill-to-Durham light-rail project. Since the FTA requires a solid commitment from non-federal funding sources before approving a grant, this leaves a funding gap of more than $200 million, which GoTriangle had counted on from the state.