July 11, 2008
Another step forward for Metro


The Federal Transit Administration has approved the Metropolitan Transit Authority's revised environmental studies for its planned North light rail line, opening the door for possible federal funding.

The FTA "record of decision," granted last week, enables the project to compete with others around the nation for 50 percent federal funding, but makes no guarantees.

It notes that the proposed line is rated "medium" under FTA criteria for transit "new starts," based on cost and ridership projections.

Pretty much every time you read a caveat in a story about the Metro 2012 Solutions plan that the agency still has "a long way to go" or "a lot of hurdles to be cleared", what that really means is that nothing is certain until federal funding has been secured. Every step closer to that is that much less uncertainty.

Metro President and CEO Frank Wilson said the agency is awaiting an FTA decision on its planned Southeast line, for which Metro also wants federal funding and has filed a supplementary environmental study.

In November, the FTA halted its evaluation of both projects and ordered Metro to revise its environmental studies and conduct new public outreach. FTA officials said that was necessary because Metro had changed its proposed mode of transit from Bus Rapid Transit, which uses special buses running on a guideway, to the more costly light rail.

Metro contended at the time that it had already evaluated light rail and should not have to duplicate that work. Metro also noted that BRT and light rail would follow identical routes and that Metro even planned to lay rails in the BRT guideway, to be converted for light rail as ridership increased.

The current record of decision acknowledges those points.

It says that "no new or changed significant impacts that were not previously evaluated ... were found."

So far, so good. Keep your fingers crossed.

In related news, Miya reports that the eastern end of the Universities line might get the change that some residents have been asking for.

Right now, if you go East bound along Richmond, the proposed line would take you from Richmond to Wheeler until it hits TSU. The alternative (told to me by people who were at the meeting) would go from Richmond to Wheeler, jog north along Cleburne/Hutchins/Dowling, until it his W. Alabama, which will then continue on to TSU.

That's a little different than what we've seen before, so presumably there will be more environmental impact statements and other paperwork to go through before anything happens. This isn't official yet, so who knows what we'll end up with.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 11, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
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