Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why LA Won't Get 80% Federal Funding on the Gold Line

Contrary to popular hopeful sentiments from local officials we discussed the other day, getting 80% just isn't possible for the Gold Line. After being challenged over on Bottleneck blog by Damien Goodmon (Fix Expo) on my assertion that today federal projects have to have 50% local funding to get funded, maybe 60% if you have a good ridership project that can cover your ratings, I found a GAO report that stated what I remember hearing was true.
Last year, in response to language contained in appropriations committee reports, FTA instituted a policy favoring projects that seek a federal New Starts share of no more than 60 percent of the total project cost—even though the law allows projects to seek up to 80 percent—in its recommendation for FFGAs. According to FTA officials, this policy allows more projects to receive funding and ensures that local governments play a major role in funding such projects. FTA describes the 60 percent policy as a general preference; however, FTA’s fiscal year 2005 New Starts report suggests that this policy is absolute in that projects proposing more than a 60 percent federal New Starts share will not be recommended for an FFGA.
They will not fund anything over 60%. That is unless you make a deal like Salt Lake City where they will pay 80% for one project but it will equal 20% for all projects. Hopefully this helps folks realize that while highways still get 80% and bankrupting their funding account, the mass transit account has only been allowing 50% or less matches over the last 4 years. It's actually been lower in certain instances with Dulles asking for 30%. Why the feds are able to kill that project when they aren't even close to the majority financial stake is beyond me.

3 comments:

Kymberleigh Richards said...

The GAO report won't make any difference to the San Gabriel Valley politicos, who are living in a state of denial.

In their world, one Congressman is all it takes to make these rules go away. Nevertheless, it's great that you dug this up as it can be thrown into any future discussions on the matter.

The politicos -- especially Supervisor Antonovich -- need to realize that Measure R is a much more secure source of funding if they want to see the line built before they all term out.

Damien Goodmon said...

New Starts is not the only federal funding program for rail transit. As I pointed out in the post on the Bottleneck blog, in the process pointing to the link supplied in your post, several projects have received 60-80% of FEDERAL funding, while only a portion of it was New Starts funding, although some have had all of it be funding from the New Starts program. I'm not to sure whether it matters to people whether it's money from one pot in D.C. or another.

The implication, when discussing federal matches, is that we have to pony up 50% of local dollars for transit projects, because the feds have a cap imposed by law. They don't. It's an inaccurate statement.

MTA is recognized as a "bad agency" by the FTA. These are words from mouths in D.C.'s to my ears. Their problems in receiving a good piece of the pie has nothing to do with restrictions, and much more to do with bad planning and operations from the Planning Department to the fare box.

And again, I'm not saying Foothill Extension will or won't qualify for a 80% federal match. Has anyone said it would be from all New Starts funding? I don't think they have. And the statement would be accurate if it were 50% New Starts and 30% some other federal source, would it not?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Did you even read what I wrote?