FTA Signs Grant Agreements for San Francisco, Minneapolis Rail Transit Projects

FTA Signs Grant Agreements for San Francisco, Minneapolis Rail Transit Projects

September 18, 2020  | Jeff Davis

The Federal Transit Administration announced this week that it signed two more full funding grant agreements (FFGAs) for mass transit projects under the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program. The grant agreements make non-legally-binding promises of a total of $2.1 billion in eventual federal CIG appropriations over the coming years, towards projects with a total capital cost of $4.7 billion.

Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Southwest Light Rail Transit Project will receive $928.8 million from the New Starts tranche of the CIG program. The project will build a 14.5 mile light rail line with 16 stations from downtown Minneapolis, moving southwest to Eden Prairie out in Hennepin County, passing through St. Louis Park, Hopkins, and Minnetonka. (Regarding the latter, the proposed station site does not seem to be close enough to Lake Minnetonka to allow passengers easily purify themselves in the waters.)

Project sponsors estimate that when the project is complete (hopefully by 2023), it will carry an average of 19,400 passengers per day. The CIG grant will comprise 46.4 percent of the total capital cost of $2.003 billion, with another $9.8 million in other federal funds transferred from highway grants. The bulk of the local funding comes from Hennepin County local sales and excise taxes ($593 million), multi-county sales tax revenue ($217 million), and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority property tax ($200 million).

So far, only $15 million has been appropriated and allocated towards this project (though, as the table below shows, there is still almost $141 million in fiscal 2020 New Start appropriations that have not yet been allocated towards a particular project, so we would not be surprised if this project gets $100 million of that amount in the next few weeks. The remainder of the funds will have to come from fiscal year 2021 and subsequent CIG appropriations.

The Minneapolis project joins nine other ongoing New Start projects with full funding grant agreements, which will collectively require over $5 billion in appropriations in future years in order to fully pay off the promised CIG program share.

San Francisco. The San Francisco BART Transbay Corridor upgrade project will receive $1.169 billion from the Core Capacity tranche of the CIG program. The existing heavy rail corridor currently averages 294,200 trips per day. The $2.7 billion project will upgrade the signaling system and the electrical power on the line, enabling it to go from the current maximum of 22 trains per hour to 30 trains per hour. The project would also purchase 252 additional rail cars to take advantage of the increased capacity. The project will increase the peak ridership capacity of the Transbay Corridor by 30 percent (a minimum increase of 10 percent in peak capacity is necessary in order to receive a grant under the Core Capacity subprogram).

The non-federal share of the project will be paid for by local bridge tolls ($500 million), local property taxes ($461 million), BART’s own capital program ($210 million), the local Metropolitan Transportation Commission transit funding ($179 million), and a grant from the state ($187 million).

FTA has already allocated $300 million of CIG appropriations towards this project, leaving $869 million to go. $501 million in fiscal year 2019 and 2020 appropriations for core capacity project remains unallocated, so this project might get more money even before the fiscal year 2021 appropriations are enacted.

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