Federal funding guidelines for major transit projects now will be based on livability issues, such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, along with current criteria that include cost and time saved, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced last week. The new policy rescinds budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost.

The new policies will determine how projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance in the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) New Starts and Small Starts programs, LaHood said in remarks at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting. "Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it," said Secretary LaHood. "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."

In making funding decisions, the FTA will now evaluate the environmental, community and economic development benefits provided by transit projects, as well as the congestion relief benefits from such projects. "This new approach will help us do a much better job of aligning our priorities and values with our transit investments," said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. "No longer will we ignore the many benefits that accrue to our environment and our communities when we build or expand rail and bus rapid transit systems."

FTA soon will initiate a separate rulemaking process, inviting public comment on ways to appropriately measure all the benefits that result from such investments. Read more information on the new policies.

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