Feds — for now — delay providing money for subway and connector engineering

Federal officials have denied a request by Metro to provide $77.6 million in the coming year’s federal budget to be used for preliminary engineering on the Westside Subway Extension and Downtown Regional Connector projects. At the same time, federal officials say they are diligently working with Metro to advance planning on both projects.

Here’s a link to a post I wrote last month about the request from Metro CEO Art Leahy. The budget, written by the Obama administration, is set to be released Feb. 1.

The letter is posted after the jump and is from Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff, who wrote that from the FTA’s standpoint neither the subway or connector projects is far enough long in the environmental review process to receive federal funding.

Metro is seeking a so-called “full-funding grant agreement” from the FTA’s New Starts program for the subway and connector projects. In plain English, that’s basically a request for the feds to pick up some of the cost of the projects from New Starts, the federal program that helps pay for big, pricey transit projects.

Problem is, the subway-connector projects are not yet officially New Starts recipients. Metro officials were hopeful to get New Starts money since in advance of that happening, but now that doesn’t appear likely in the 2011 budget. Metro officials say they will explore other funding options to pay for the preliminary engineering work, including seeking funding from Congress in the in the fiscal year 2011 appropriations cycle.

In the meantime, planning efforts for both the subway and connector projects is ongoing. Here’s a link to a recent post updating subway planning efforts. Rogoff2_Page_1

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