Final Guidance on New Starts/Small Starts Policies and Procedures, 37763-37767 [E9-18092]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 144 / Wednesday, July 29, 2009 / Notices to the above address between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. If you wish to contact the above individual directly, you can use the above telephone number or email address provided. How to Obtain Copies: A paper copy of AC 33.87–2 may be obtained by writing to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Subsequent Distribution Office, DOT Warehouse, SVC 121.23, Ardmore East Business Center, 3341Q 75th Ave., Landover, MD 20785, telephone 301 322–5377, or by faxing your request to the warehouse at 301– 386–5394. The AC will also be available on the Internet at http://www.faa.gov/ regu1atjpjpplicies (then click on ‘‘Advisory Circulars’’). Authority: 49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701– 44702, 44704. Issued in Burlington, Massachusetts on June 25, 2009. Peter White, Acting Manager, Engine and Propeller Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service. [FR Doc. E9–17844 Filed 7–28–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–13–M DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Transit Administration [Docket Number: FTA–2009–0009] Final Guidance on New Starts/Small Starts Policies and Procedures mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DOT. ACTION: Response to comments; final guidance. SUMMARY: The purpose of this notice is to convey the 2009 final guidance on New Starts/Small Starts policies and procedures. On May 20, 2009, FTA announced in the Federal Register the availability of proposed guidance and requested public comment. FTA received a total of 29 comments, primarily from transit agencies and metropolitan planning organizations, as well as cities, advocacy groups, State departments of transportation, and other interested parties. After reviewing the public comments, FTA is issuing final guidance, which is included at the end of this notice. Please note that FTA is concurrently publishing a separate notice in today’s Federal Register that includes additional proposed guidance on the New Starts and Small Starts program for public comment. DATES: This final guidance is effective July 29, 2009. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Day, Office of Planning and VerDate Nov<24>2008 18:30 Jul 28, 2009 Jkt 217001 Environment, telephone (202) 366–5159 and Christopher Van Wyk, Office of Chief Counsel, telephone (202) 366– 1733. FTA is located at 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., East Building, Washington, DC 20590. Office hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., EST, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. Organization The proposed guidance issued on May 20, 2009 was developed to implement the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA–LU) Technical Corrections Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 110–244), which amends 49 U.S.C. 5309. The guidance covered three distinct topics: Proposed weighting of project justification criteria and evaluative methodology for the economic development effects, operating efficiencies, and transit supportive land use criteria for New Starts projects; Proposed weighting of project justification criteria and evaluative methodology for the economic development effects and transit supportive land use criteria for Small Starts projects; and Proposed procedures for considering the benefits of project alternatives that include a tunnel, as well as certain costs when a tunnel is considered but not selected for a project. Responses to comments on each of these topics are presented below. Following the responses, the final guidance is articulated in full. Response to Comments 1. New Starts Project Justification Rating The SAFETEA–LU Technical Corrections Act directed that the project justification criteria for New Starts projects be given comparable, but not necessarily equal, weights. In the proposed guidance, FTA suggested the use of the following weights: mobility improvements (20 percent); environmental benefits (10 percent); cost effectiveness (20 percent); operating efficiencies (10 percent); economic development effects (20 percent); and public transportation supportive land use (‘‘land use’’) (20 percent). FTA also proposed methods for evaluating the criteria for economic development effects, land use, and operating efficiencies. Of the 29 respondents, 19 expressed general support for FTA’s proposed weighting scheme. Of the remaining respondents, four did not directly address the proposal; three proposed minor changes to the weighting scheme and three others proposed significant changes—modifications to both the weighting scheme and the criteria PO 00000 Frm 00077 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 37763 measures (two of these three respondents proposed identical modifications). Each of the six proposals suggesting different weighting schemes is discussed in the comments and responses below. Comment: One respondent suggested reducing the weight on operating efficiencies to zero, on the premise that the cost effectiveness measure captures this criterion, and suggested increasing the weight on mobility improvements to 30 percent. Response: FTA formerly used the operating efficiencies criterion in evaluating projects, but found that the measure did not provide meaningful distinctions between projects. Consistent with the direction in the SAFETEA–LU Technical Corrections Act, FTA will evaluate operating efficiencies as a stand-alone criterion, but, in recognition of the limitation of the current measure for this criterion, will give it less weight than some of the other criteria. Comment: One respondent suggested modifying the distinction between land use and economic development by: (1) Removing the evaluation of existing land use; (2) considering the transit supportive plans and policies for present and future development as the core of the land use evaluation; (3) considering the transportation performance and impact of land use policies in the land use evaluation (e.g., parking requirement reductions); and, (4) considering the economic performance and impact of land use policies to economic development (e.g., increase in tax base). The respondent stated that existing land use is already captured by the estimates of ridership generated by the travel forecasting model. Response: For project evaluation and rating, FTA uses travel forecasts based upon forecast year population and employment projections compiled by regional metropolitan planning organizations, not opening year forecasts which would be more reflective of existing transit supportive land use. FTA considers the existence of existing transit supportive land use in the corridor to be relevant to the understanding of the proposed project and a criterion for which credit should be given in the evaluation of the project. FTA is working with the transit community to develop a more robust methodology for measuring economic development effects and will consider the alternative proposed by the respondent as it continues that work. The proposed measure for economic development effects in this guidance is intended to be an interim approach, E:\FR\FM\29JYN1.SGM 29JYN1 mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES 37764 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 144 / Wednesday, July 29, 2009 / Notices which requires no new data from project sponsors, but which will be useful until a more robust measure can be developed. Comment: One respondent suggested weights of at least 30 percent for cost effectiveness and land use and no more than 10 percent for each of the other criteria. The respondent stated that the cost effectiveness criterion clearly demonstrates the impact of a project on customer travel time and that existing land use is a very reliable indicator of ridership potential. Response: FTA agrees that cost effectiveness and existing land use are useful measures in assessing projects. FTA is, however, assigning less disparate weights to all of the project justification criteria than the respondent suggests, consistent with the direction in the SAFETEA–LU Technical Correction Act calling for the assignment of comparable, but not necessarily equal, weights. Comments: Two respondents proposed changing the criteria weights as well as modifying numerous criteria measures. Highlights of these responses included recommendations to: (1) Increase focus on land use, noting that the weights proposed by FTA reduce the weight of the previously-used land use criterion from 50 to 40 percent (combining land use and economic development effects); (2) gather more information and place greater emphasis on comprehensive land use and transportation strategies that enhance the effectiveness of transit projects, avoid urban sprawl, and reduce local infrastructure costs and produce other benefits of compact development including reductions in vehicle travel and greenhouse gas emissions; (3) simplify the mobility improvements (20 percent weight) measure to consider only ridership and benefits to transit dependents; (4) consider quantifiable reductions in emissions and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the environmental benefits criterion (15 percent); (5) use cost per rider for cost effectiveness (10 percent) rather than incremental cost per incremental ‘‘user benefit;’’ and, (6) use incremental system cost per rider for operating efficiencies (5 percent). Another respondent also suggested changes to the criteria weights as well as to numerous criteria measures. Highlights of the response included recommendations to: (1) Reduce the mobility improvements weight (10 percent weight); (2) consider reductions in VMT and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the environmental benefits criterion (15 percent); (3) compute cost effectiveness by comparing the project VerDate Nov<24>2008 18:30 Jul 28, 2009 Jkt 217001 to the ‘‘no build’’ alternative rather than the ‘‘baseline’’ alternative (25 percent); (4) include fare box and other revenue recovery considerations in the measurement of operating efficiencies (10 percent); (5) modify the land use evaluation to be more reflective of actual land use policies and decisions that support transit, including steps local governments could take to ensure planning and zoning matched the proposed transit investment (20 percent); and, (6) modify the economic development effects criterion to consider a higher rating for projects that include government action to provide incentives to encourage economic development (20 percent). Response: It is not clear from the respondents’ comments if their proposals for changing the weights are independent of the proposals for changes in the criteria measures. As such, it is difficult to comment on the respondent’s proposed changes to the weights, other than to note the suggestions are relatively minor in comparison to those proposed by FTA. The respondents’ suggested modifications to the criteria measures, on the other hand, are not minor. FTA’s proposal focused primarily on criteria weights. FTA’s proposal also distinguished the measures formerly used for land use, separating them into measures for economic development effects and land use because of the statutory direction to treat these two criteria separately. FTA’s proposal also intended to meet the requirements of the Technical Corrections Act while limiting the amount of new data and information required from project sponsors at this point in time. FTA will continue to consider the suggestions provided as it develops future performance measures for the project justification criteria and future policy guidance documents. Comments: Eighteen respondents noted that the proposed guidance omits discussion of whether the funding recommendation practice generally requiring a ‘‘medium’’ cost-effectiveness rating announced in a 2005 ‘‘Dear Colleague’’ letter will continue. These respondents questioned what impact giving comparable weight to each project justification criterion will have if a single criterion continues to be used in general as a go/no-go decision rule in funding recommendations. Fourteen of these respondents explicitly requested that FTA rescind the ‘‘Dear Colleague’’ letter. Response: This final guidance describes FTA’s process of evaluating and rating proposed projects. It does not address the practice generally requiring PO 00000 Frm 00078 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 a ‘‘medium’’ cost-effectiveness rating for a project funding recommendation, announced in the 2005 ‘‘Dear Colleague’’ letter. The evaluation and rating of the statutory criteria determine the eligibility of a project for consideration for a funding recommendation. The Administration is continuing to review the appropriateness, efficacy, and impact of the ‘‘Dear Colleague’’ letter practice. Comments: Seven respondents inquired as to whether FTA will continue to consider ‘‘other factors’’ in the project justification rating, specifically the ‘‘case for the project’’ document and whether the proposed New Starts project is a principle element of a congestion management strategy in general, and an auto pricing strategy, in particular. Four respondents recommended that FTA remove the provision of improving the rating of projects that are part of an auto pricing strategy. Response: Based on comments received and FTA’s own views on the use of ‘‘other factors’’, FTA has proposed in a concurrent notice published in this issue of the Federal Register changes to its review of ‘‘other factors’’. After considering comments received on that notice, FTA will publish 2009 Supplemental Final Policy Guidance. 2. Small Starts Project Justification Rating The SAFETEA–LU Technical Corrections Act directed that the project justification criteria for Small Starts projects be given comparable, but not necessarily equal, weights. In the proposed guidance, FTA suggested using a weight of 33.3 percent to each of the Small Starts project justification criteria: cost effectiveness, public transportation supportive land use policies (‘‘land use’’), and economic development effects. FTA also proposed methods for evaluating the economic development effects and land use criteria. Comments: Of the 29 comments received, 16 expressed general support for the proposed weighting scheme. Of the remaining respondents, ten did not directly address the proposal; one proposed a minor change to the weighting scheme and two others proposed identical, significant changes. Each of the three proposals for different criteria weights is discussed in the comments and responses below. Comment: One respondent suggested increasing the weight of the cost effectiveness criteria from 33.3 percent to 50 percent and reducing the weight of the land use and economic E:\FR\FM\29JYN1.SGM 29JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 144 / Wednesday, July 29, 2009 / Notices development effects criteria to 25 percent each. Response: FTA considers its proposed weighting of the criteria for Small Starts to be more consistent with the Technical Corrections Act’s direction than the respondent’s proposal. Comment: One respondent agreed with the weights proposed by FTA provided the criteria measures change as follows: (1) Land use should require more information and place greater emphasis on comprehensive land use and transportation strategies that enhance the effectiveness of transit projects, avoid urban sprawl, and reduce local infrastructure costs and produce other benefits of compact development including reductions in vehicle travel and greenhouse gas emissions; (2) cost per rider should be the measure for the cost effectiveness criteria; and, (3) meaningful measures of economic development effects should ultimately be developed. Comment: One respondent suggested a variety of improvements to the New Starts measures and for Small Starts notes that the same changes should be applied, though with an emphasis on methods that are easier to report and a consideration of only those criteria required by statute. Response: FTA’s proposal intends to meet the requirements of the Technical Corrections Act while limiting the amount of new data and information required from project sponsors. FTA currently attempts to use measures for Small Starts that are easier to report compared to New Starts. FTA will continue to consider the suggestions provided as it develops future performance measures for the Small Starts project justification criteria and on future policy guidance documents. mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES 3. Alternatives With Tunnels The SAFETEA–LU Technical Corrections Act calls for the analysis, evaluation, and consideration of the congestion relief, improved mobility, and other benefits of transit tunnels in projects that include a tunnel, and the ancillary and mitigation costs to relieve congestion, improve mobility, and decrease air and noise pollution in projects that do not include a tunnel, but where a tunnel was considered. In the proposed guidance, FTA suggested it would require that alternatives analysis studies address these impacts of transit tunnels when a tunnel is part of a project or was considered during the alternatives analysis. FTA proposed to ensure that such information was addressed during alternatives analysis as part of the FTA review of project VerDate Nov<24>2008 18:30 Jul 28, 2009 Jkt 217001 applications for entry into preliminary engineering. Comments: One respondent requested that FTA define ‘‘tunnel’’ to clarify when additional analysis is needed, and others noted that a complimentary, realistic surface option is not always available (e.g., commuter rail under Manhattan or light rail beneath an airport runway). Response: Additional analyses are required when different vertical alignments (i.e., at-grade versus underground) of a proposed reasonable alternative result in disparate impacts to automobile congestion, mobility, air and noise pollution, and/or any other relevant consideration. Comments: Eight respondents noted that the Technical Corrections Act directs FTA to analyze, evaluate, and consider the benefits of tunnels, but the proposed guidance does not explain how FTA will consider the results of the analysis in their ratings. Three respondents suggested, in the absence of more detailed guidance, that FTA not change how tunnels are currently considered in the evaluation criteria and continue to invite sponsors to use the ‘‘case for the project’’ document and ‘‘other factors’’ section of the New Starts submissions to highlight the benefits of tunnels not captured by the other criteria. One respondent suggested modifying the cost effectiveness measure and project justification rating to better account for tunnel options compared to non-tunnel options, including local traffic and land use issues. Response: As reflected in the final guidance, FTA concurs with the suggestion of not changing the current evaluation methods. The mobility improvements, operating efficiencies, land use, economic development effects, and cost effectiveness project justification criteria capture much of the benefits provided by tunnels. Additionally, FTA’s consideration of ‘‘other factors’’, offers project sponsors the opportunity to present evidence not considered by the aforementioned criteria, including mitigation costs necessary due to the selection of an above-ground alignment. Comments: Three respondents requested that FTA describe the specific analyses FTA expects project sponsors to perform to meet this requirement. One respondent suggested that the screening of alternatives should be a local process and that FTA should not mandate specific analytical methods. Response: FTA is not prescribing analysis and evaluation techniques for assessing tunnels. Project sponsors are free to use methods deemed most PO 00000 Frm 00079 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 37765 appropriate for local conditions when evaluating the impacts of a tunnel option to address the transportation problems described in the alternatives analysis. FTA’s role is to ensure consistency with the direction in the Technical Corrections Act and to facilitate informed decision making by the public and local officials by ensuring that the analysis is reasonable. Comment: One respondent suggested extending the consideration of tunnels (or no tunnel) to both the preliminary engineering stage of project development and/or through the final environmental impact statement. Response: FTA does not wish to mandate that a vertical alignment (be it tunnel or no tunnel) other than the locally-preferred alternative always be considered beyond alternatives analysis. The purpose of the alternatives analysis is for local decision makers to select a mode and general alignment—including vertical alignment. This decision should remain a local one. 4. Broader Comments on New and Small Starts Program FTA received numerous comments regarding aspects of the New and Small Starts programs not explicitly discussed in the proposed guidance, including some comments that require regulatory or legislative changes. For some time FTA has been considering many of these and other ideas. Consequently, as an initial step, FTA is issuing additional proposed guidance in this issue of the Federal Register aimed at streamlining and simplifying the New and Small Starts programs. FTA’s efforts to streamline will continue in the future and the comments summarized below will be given consideration moving forward. Comments: Eight respondents suggested that FTA issue a comprehensive set of guidance so that project sponsors can be fully and accurately informed regarding current FTA requirements. Such guidance could respond to recent actions taken by Congress and be open to public comment. Comments: Four respondents suggested changes to the Very Small Starts streamlined evaluation requirements, specifically: (1) Removing the total project cost and cost per mile requirements; (2) removing the requirements on daily operations and number of riders; (3) allowing low-floor buses to be purchased as part of an agency-wide purchase, rather than as part of the project; and, (4) defining ‘‘substantial long-term corridor investment’’ (in a non-fixed guideway corridor) per the statute. E:\FR\FM\29JYN1.SGM 29JYN1 mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES 37766 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 144 / Wednesday, July 29, 2009 / Notices Comments: Three respondents suggested that FTA implement the reliability rating change through notice and comment rulemaking. Comments: Three respondents urged FTA to streamline the planning and project development process. Another asked FTA to completely revamp the program. Comments: Two respondents suggested that FTA change how local financial commitment is recognized and how local funds can be used. One suggested recognizing all of the local contributions made in the fiscallyconstrained long-range plan towards a new fixed-guideway system when considering the financial rating of a New Starts project. Another suggested allowing for so-called ‘‘deferred local match,’’ as well as allowing project sponsors that invest more than 20 percent of total project cost to follow local procedures for aspects of the project funded with local funds. Comments: Besides the previously discussed suggestion to change the existing practice requiring a ‘‘medium’’ cost-effectiveness rating for a project funding recommendation, suggestions on FTA’s cost effectiveness index included: (1) Basing cost effectiveness on the amount of the Federal investment rather than the total project cost; (2) replacing the current cost effectiveness measure of cost per hour of transportation system user benefit with cost per new rider; (3) tying the New Starts share to the cost effectiveness measure (i.e., the higher the measure, the higher the allowable New Starts share); and, (4) updating the measure to account for inflation. Comments: One commenter criticized the current measure of environmental benefits for being biased against areas that are currently less dense but growing. Another commenter suggested that any environmental benefits measure be presented as relative, rather than absolute, to avoid biases against large cities. Comments: Suggestions regarding land use issues not mentioned previously included: (1) Considering the land acquisition to build transitoriented developments differently when calculating project cost; and (2) modifying the rating to reward communities that demonstrate implementation of affordable, mixedincome housing preservation and expansion policies and community planning activities. Criticisms of the evaluation of land use included: (1) The practice of fixing land use in the analysis of the transportation benefits associated with the project ignores the effect of the project in promoting higher VerDate Nov<24>2008 18:30 Jul 28, 2009 Jkt 217001 density; and, (2) the focus on existing land use ignores the inability of density to increase without the project in place. Comments: Comments on FTA’s emphasis on the state of good repair included: (1) One respondent requested that rebuilding and maintaining aging infrastructure be a high priority in the next transportation bill; and (2) two respondents questioned why FTA rates a financial plan for a New Starts project that relies on section 5307 formula funds or section 5309 fixed guideway modernization funds less favorably than financial plans that do not rely on these sources. Comments: Suggestions regarding broad program changes included: (1) Considering benefits to increasing corridor capacity in the project justification criteria; (2) splitting the program into two categories, new and expansion, to allow for a more level playing field and balanced funding allocation; (3) providing a bonus to metropolitan areas that exceed ridership expectations; (4) reducing the expectations of capital cost and ridership estimates at early stages of project development; (5) allowing flexibility in the timing of when the New Starts share is finalized; (6) keeping the New Starts process distinct from the process required by the National Environmental Policy Act; (7) working with the Federal Highway Administration to develop a uniform project development process for multimodal projects; and, (8) expanding ‘‘warrants’’, such as those used for Very Small Starts, to larger projects. Final Guidance 1. New Starts Project Justification Rating The project justification rating of a project seeking New Starts funding will be based on ratings for the following criteria with the weights shown in parentheses: mobility improvements (20%), environmental benefits (10%), cost effectiveness (20%), operating efficiencies (10%), economic development effects (20%), and public transportation supportive land use (20%). FTA’s approach to the measures and ratings is to base them on existing procedures and information produced by project sponsors to the extent possible. This allows for their immediate implementation because new information, along with the additional time required for project sponsors to develop it, is not required. More significant changes have been postponed until FTA completes development of more robust measures, particularly for environmental benefits PO 00000 Frm 00080 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 and economic development effects. The measures for the mobility improvements, environmental benefits, and cost effectiveness criteria do not change at this time under this guidance. The operating efficiencies criterion will be evaluated and rated as it was in fiscal year 2008 and earlier using the incremental difference in system-wide operating cost per passenger mile between the build and the baseline alternatives. To avoid requiring new information from project sponsors until such time as FTA develops more robust measures, the economic development effects rating will be based on two of the three subfactors previously used to rate public transportation supportive land use—transit supportive plans and policies, and performance and impact of policies. The remaining land use subfactor previously used—existing land use—will be the basis for the public transportation supportive land use rating. Each of these three subfactors, although separated into two separate measures, will be evaluated and rated as they were previously. The rating for each criterion will be expressed descriptively as ‘‘low,’’ ‘‘medium-low,’’ ‘‘medium,’’ ‘‘mediumhigh,’’ or ‘‘high,’’ with a corresponding numerical rating of one to five used in aggregation calculations. A simple approach was used to determine the magnitude of the weights of all the project justification criteria, but not the simplest. The simplest would be to make all weights equal, meaning between 16 and 17 percent. The lower weights for the environmental benefits and operating efficiencies criteria acknowledge the transit community’s lack of consensus about useful, easily reported measures for these criteria that can be used to meaningfully distinguish between projects. FTA is conducting research to identify useful measures for the environmental benefits criterion. Likewise, in a Federal Register notice published on January 26, 2009, FTA issued and sought comments on a discussion paper on new, alternative ways of evaluating economic development effects. FTA is now reviewing comments on that paper. 2. Small Starts Project Justification Rating The project justification rating of a project seeking Small Starts funding will be based on ratings for the following criteria with the proposed weights shown in parentheses: cost effectiveness (one third), economic development effects (one third), and E:\FR\FM\29JYN1.SGM 29JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 144 / Wednesday, July 29, 2009 / Notices mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES public transportation supportive land use policies (one third). FTA’s approach to the project justification measures for Small Starts is identical to that described above for New Starts, meaning that they are based on existing procedures and information produced by project sponsors to the extent possible. The measure and rating for the cost effectiveness criterion does not change under this guidance. The measures and ratings for the economic development effects and public transportation supportive land use criteria are identical to those proposed for New Starts. The economic development effects rating will be based on two of the three subfactors previously used to rate land use (following the data reporting simplifications already in place for Small Starts projects)—transit supportive plans and policies and performance and impact of policies. The remaining land use subfactor previously used—existing land use—will be the basis for the public transportation supportive land use rating. The simplest approach was used to determine the magnitude of the weights, with all of them weighted equally. Projects that qualify for the Very Small Starts streamlined evaluation will continue to receive an automatic ‘‘medium’’ rating for project justification. 3. Alternatives With Tunnels As a condition of advancement into preliminary engineering, FTA requires that alternatives analysis studies specifically analyze, evaluate, and consider the congestion relief, improved mobility, and other benefits of transit tunnels in those projects that include a transit tunnel and the associated ancillary and mitigation costs necessary to relieve congestion, improve mobility, and decrease air and noise pollution in those projects that do not include a tunnel, but where a transit tunnel was one of the alternatives analyzed. Additional analyses are required when different vertical alignments (i.e., atgrade versus underground) of a proposed reasonable alternative result in disparate impacts to automobile congestion, mobility, air and noise pollution, and/or any other relevant consideration. FTA will ensure that such information has been addressed during the alternative analysis of projects that considered a tunnel as part of the FTA review of project applications for entry into preliminary engineering. The mobility improvements, operating efficiencies, land use, economic development effects, and cost VerDate Nov<24>2008 18:30 Jul 28, 2009 Jkt 217001 effectiveness project justification criteria capture much of the benefits provided by tunnels. Additionally, FTA’s consideration of ‘‘other factors,’’ including the ‘‘case for the project’’ document, offers project sponsors the opportunity to present evidence not considered by the aforementioned criteria, including mitigation costs necessary due to the selection of an above-ground alignment. In evaluating the consequences of a tunnel option compared to a surface option, project sponsors are encouraged to use the full range of FTA project justification criteria to support local decision making during project planning. Issued on: July 24, 2009. Peter M. Rogoff, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration. [FR Doc. E9–18092 Filed 7–24–09; 4:15 pm] 37767 Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Electronic Access You may see all the comments online through the Federal Document Management System (FDMS) at http:// www.regulations.gov. Background Under 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315, FMCSA may grant an exemption for a 2year period if it finds ‘‘such exemption would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption.’’ The statute also allows the Agency to renew exemptions at the end of the 2-year period. The comment period ended on July 2, 2009. BILLING CODE P Discussion of Comments DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION FMCSA received no comments in this proceeding. Conclusion Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [Docket No FMCSA–1998–4334; FMCSA– 2000–7006; FMCSA–2000–7363; FMCSA– 2000–8398; FMCSA–2001–9258; FMCSA– 2003–14223; FMCSA–2003–14504; FMCSA– 2004–19477; FMCSA–2005–20027; FMCSA– 2005–20560; FMCSA–2006–26066; FMCSA– 2007–27333; FMCSA–2007–27515.] Qualification of Drivers; Exemption Renewals; Vision AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT. ACTION: Notice of final disposition. SUMMARY: FMCSA previously announced its decision to renew the exemptions from the vision requirement in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for 29 individuals. FMCSA has statutory authority to exempt individuals from the vision requirement if the exemptions granted will not compromise safety. The Agency has concluded that granting these exemptions will provide a level of safety that will be equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety maintained without the exemptions for these commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Mary D. Gunnels, Director, Medical Programs, (202) 366–4001, fmcsamedical@dot.gov, FMCSA, Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Room W64– 224, Washington, DC 20590–0001. Office hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PO 00000 Frm 00081 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 The Agency has not received any adverse evidence on any of these drivers that indicates that safety is being compromised. Based upon its evaluation of the 29 renewal applications, FMCSA renews the Federal vision exemptions for Gary A. Barrett, Ivan L. Beal, Johnny A. Beutler, Daniel R. Brewer, Darryl D. Cassatt, Larry Chinn, Brett L. Condon, Albion C. Doe, Sr., William K. Gullet, Daryl A. Jester, James P. Jones, Clyde H. Kitzan, Larry J. Lang, Spencer E. Leonard, Dennis D. Lesperance, John W. Locke, Herman G. Lovell, Ronald L. Maynard, Donald G. Meyer, William A. Moore, Jr., Earl R. Neugebauer, Danny R. Pickelsimer, Richard S. Rehbein, Bernard E. Roche, David E. Sanders, David B. Speller, Lynn D. Veach, Harry S. Warren, and Michael C. Wines. In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315, each renewal exemption will be valid for 2 years unless revoked earlier by FMCSA. The exemption will be revoked if: (1) The person fails to comply with the terms and conditions of the exemption; (2) the exemption has resulted in a lower level of safety than was maintained before it was granted; or (3) continuation of the exemption would not be consistent with the goals and objectives of 49 U.S.C. 31136 and 31315. Issued on: July 21, 2009. Larry W. Minor, Associate Administrator for Policy and Program Development. [FR Doc. E9–17975 Filed 7–28–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–EX–P E:\FR\FM\29JYN1.SGM 29JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 144 (Wednesday, July 29, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 37763-37767]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-18092]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transit Administration

[Docket Number: FTA-2009-0009]


Final Guidance on New Starts/Small Starts Policies and Procedures

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DOT.

ACTION: Response to comments; final guidance.

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SUMMARY: The purpose of this notice is to convey the 2009 final 
guidance on New Starts/Small Starts policies and procedures. On May 20, 
2009, FTA announced in the Federal Register the availability of 
proposed guidance and requested public comment. FTA received a total of 
29 comments, primarily from transit agencies and metropolitan planning 
organizations, as well as cities, advocacy groups, State departments of 
transportation, and other interested parties. After reviewing the 
public comments, FTA is issuing final guidance, which is included at 
the end of this notice. Please note that FTA is concurrently publishing 
a separate notice in today's Federal Register that includes additional 
proposed guidance on the New Starts and Small Starts program for public 
comment.

DATES: This final guidance is effective July 29, 2009.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Day, Office of Planning and 
Environment, telephone (202) 366-5159 and Christopher Van Wyk, Office 
of Chief Counsel, telephone (202) 366-1733. FTA is located at 1200 New 
Jersey Ave., SE., East Building, Washington, DC 20590. Office hours are 
from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., EST, Monday through Friday, except Federal 
holidays.

Organization

    The proposed guidance issued on May 20, 2009 was developed to 
implement the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation 
Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) Technical Corrections Act 
of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-244), which amends 49 U.S.C. 5309. The guidance 
covered three distinct topics: Proposed weighting of project 
justification criteria and evaluative methodology for the economic 
development effects, operating efficiencies, and transit supportive 
land use criteria for New Starts projects; Proposed weighting of 
project justification criteria and evaluative methodology for the 
economic development effects and transit supportive land use criteria 
for Small Starts projects; and Proposed procedures for considering the 
benefits of project alternatives that include a tunnel, as well as 
certain costs when a tunnel is considered but not selected for a 
project. Responses to comments on each of these topics are presented 
below. Following the responses, the final guidance is articulated in 
full.

Response to Comments

1. New Starts Project Justification Rating

    The SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act directed that the project 
justification criteria for New Starts projects be given comparable, but 
not necessarily equal, weights. In the proposed guidance, FTA suggested 
the use of the following weights: mobility improvements (20 percent); 
environmental benefits (10 percent); cost effectiveness (20 percent); 
operating efficiencies (10 percent); economic development effects (20 
percent); and public transportation supportive land use (``land use'') 
(20 percent). FTA also proposed methods for evaluating the criteria for 
economic development effects, land use, and operating efficiencies.
    Of the 29 respondents, 19 expressed general support for FTA's 
proposed weighting scheme. Of the remaining respondents, four did not 
directly address the proposal; three proposed minor changes to the 
weighting scheme and three others proposed significant changes--
modifications to both the weighting scheme and the criteria measures 
(two of these three respondents proposed identical modifications). Each 
of the six proposals suggesting different weighting schemes is 
discussed in the comments and responses below.
    Comment: One respondent suggested reducing the weight on operating 
efficiencies to zero, on the premise that the cost effectiveness 
measure captures this criterion, and suggested increasing the weight on 
mobility improvements to 30 percent.
    Response: FTA formerly used the operating efficiencies criterion in 
evaluating projects, but found that the measure did not provide 
meaningful distinctions between projects. Consistent with the direction 
in the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act, FTA will evaluate 
operating efficiencies as a stand-alone criterion, but, in recognition 
of the limitation of the current measure for this criterion, will give 
it less weight than some of the other criteria.
    Comment: One respondent suggested modifying the distinction between 
land use and economic development by: (1) Removing the evaluation of 
existing land use; (2) considering the transit supportive plans and 
policies for present and future development as the core of the land use 
evaluation; (3) considering the transportation performance and impact 
of land use policies in the land use evaluation (e.g., parking 
requirement reductions); and, (4) considering the economic performance 
and impact of land use policies to economic development (e.g., increase 
in tax base). The respondent stated that existing land use is already 
captured by the estimates of ridership generated by the travel 
forecasting model.
    Response: For project evaluation and rating, FTA uses travel 
forecasts based upon forecast year population and employment 
projections compiled by regional metropolitan planning organizations, 
not opening year forecasts which would be more reflective of existing 
transit supportive land use. FTA considers the existence of existing 
transit supportive land use in the corridor to be relevant to the 
understanding of the proposed project and a criterion for which credit 
should be given in the evaluation of the project.
    FTA is working with the transit community to develop a more robust 
methodology for measuring economic development effects and will 
consider the alternative proposed by the respondent as it continues 
that work. The proposed measure for economic development effects in 
this guidance is intended to be an interim approach,

[[Page 37764]]

which requires no new data from project sponsors, but which will be 
useful until a more robust measure can be developed.
    Comment: One respondent suggested weights of at least 30 percent 
for cost effectiveness and land use and no more than 10 percent for 
each of the other criteria. The respondent stated that the cost 
effectiveness criterion clearly demonstrates the impact of a project on 
customer travel time and that existing land use is a very reliable 
indicator of ridership potential.
    Response: FTA agrees that cost effectiveness and existing land use 
are useful measures in assessing projects. FTA is, however, assigning 
less disparate weights to all of the project justification criteria 
than the respondent suggests, consistent with the direction in the 
SAFETEA-LU Technical Correction Act calling for the assignment of 
comparable, but not necessarily equal, weights.
    Comments: Two respondents proposed changing the criteria weights as 
well as modifying numerous criteria measures. Highlights of these 
responses included recommendations to: (1) Increase focus on land use, 
noting that the weights proposed by FTA reduce the weight of the 
previously-used land use criterion from 50 to 40 percent (combining 
land use and economic development effects); (2) gather more information 
and place greater emphasis on comprehensive land use and transportation 
strategies that enhance the effectiveness of transit projects, avoid 
urban sprawl, and reduce local infrastructure costs and produce other 
benefits of compact development including reductions in vehicle travel 
and greenhouse gas emissions; (3) simplify the mobility improvements 
(20 percent weight) measure to consider only ridership and benefits to 
transit dependents; (4) consider quantifiable reductions in emissions 
and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the environmental benefits 
criterion (15 percent); (5) use cost per rider for cost effectiveness 
(10 percent) rather than incremental cost per incremental ``user 
benefit;'' and, (6) use incremental system cost per rider for operating 
efficiencies (5 percent).
    Another respondent also suggested changes to the criteria weights 
as well as to numerous criteria measures. Highlights of the response 
included recommendations to: (1) Reduce the mobility improvements 
weight (10 percent weight); (2) consider reductions in VMT and 
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the environmental benefits criterion 
(15 percent); (3) compute cost effectiveness by comparing the project 
to the ``no build'' alternative rather than the ``baseline'' 
alternative (25 percent); (4) include fare box and other revenue 
recovery considerations in the measurement of operating efficiencies 
(10 percent); (5) modify the land use evaluation to be more reflective 
of actual land use policies and decisions that support transit, 
including steps local governments could take to ensure planning and 
zoning matched the proposed transit investment (20 percent); and, (6) 
modify the economic development effects criterion to consider a higher 
rating for projects that include government action to provide 
incentives to encourage economic development (20 percent).
    Response: It is not clear from the respondents' comments if their 
proposals for changing the weights are independent of the proposals for 
changes in the criteria measures. As such, it is difficult to comment 
on the respondent's proposed changes to the weights, other than to note 
the suggestions are relatively minor in comparison to those proposed by 
FTA. The respondents' suggested modifications to the criteria measures, 
on the other hand, are not minor. FTA's proposal focused primarily on 
criteria weights. FTA's proposal also distinguished the measures 
formerly used for land use, separating them into measures for economic 
development effects and land use because of the statutory direction to 
treat these two criteria separately. FTA's proposal also intended to 
meet the requirements of the Technical Corrections Act while limiting 
the amount of new data and information required from project sponsors 
at this point in time. FTA will continue to consider the suggestions 
provided as it develops future performance measures for the project 
justification criteria and future policy guidance documents.
    Comments: Eighteen respondents noted that the proposed guidance 
omits discussion of whether the funding recommendation practice 
generally requiring a ``medium'' cost-effectiveness rating announced in 
a 2005 ``Dear Colleague'' letter will continue. These respondents 
questioned what impact giving comparable weight to each project 
justification criterion will have if a single criterion continues to be 
used in general as a go/no-go decision rule in funding recommendations. 
Fourteen of these respondents explicitly requested that FTA rescind the 
``Dear Colleague'' letter.
    Response: This final guidance describes FTA's process of evaluating 
and rating proposed projects. It does not address the practice 
generally requiring a ``medium'' cost-effectiveness rating for a 
project funding recommendation, announced in the 2005 ``Dear 
Colleague'' letter. The evaluation and rating of the statutory criteria 
determine the eligibility of a project for consideration for a funding 
recommendation. The Administration is continuing to review the 
appropriateness, efficacy, and impact of the ``Dear Colleague'' letter 
practice.
    Comments: Seven respondents inquired as to whether FTA will 
continue to consider ``other factors'' in the project justification 
rating, specifically the ``case for the project'' document and whether 
the proposed New Starts project is a principle element of a congestion 
management strategy in general, and an auto pricing strategy, in 
particular. Four respondents recommended that FTA remove the provision 
of improving the rating of projects that are part of an auto pricing 
strategy.
    Response: Based on comments received and FTA's own views on the use 
of ``other factors'', FTA has proposed in a concurrent notice published 
in this issue of the Federal Register changes to its review of ``other 
factors''. After considering comments received on that notice, FTA will 
publish 2009 Supplemental Final Policy Guidance.

2. Small Starts Project Justification Rating

    The SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act directed that the project 
justification criteria for Small Starts projects be given comparable, 
but not necessarily equal, weights. In the proposed guidance, FTA 
suggested using a weight of 33.3 percent to each of the Small Starts 
project justification criteria: cost effectiveness, public 
transportation supportive land use policies (``land use''), and 
economic development effects. FTA also proposed methods for evaluating 
the economic development effects and land use criteria.
    Comments: Of the 29 comments received, 16 expressed general support 
for the proposed weighting scheme. Of the remaining respondents, ten 
did not directly address the proposal; one proposed a minor change to 
the weighting scheme and two others proposed identical, significant 
changes. Each of the three proposals for different criteria weights is 
discussed in the comments and responses below.
    Comment: One respondent suggested increasing the weight of the cost 
effectiveness criteria from 33.3 percent to 50 percent and reducing the 
weight of the land use and economic

[[Page 37765]]

development effects criteria to 25 percent each.
    Response: FTA considers its proposed weighting of the criteria for 
Small Starts to be more consistent with the Technical Corrections Act's 
direction than the respondent's proposal.
    Comment: One respondent agreed with the weights proposed by FTA 
provided the criteria measures change as follows: (1) Land use should 
require more information and place greater emphasis on comprehensive 
land use and transportation strategies that enhance the effectiveness 
of transit projects, avoid urban sprawl, and reduce local 
infrastructure costs and produce other benefits of compact development 
including reductions in vehicle travel and greenhouse gas emissions; 
(2) cost per rider should be the measure for the cost effectiveness 
criteria; and, (3) meaningful measures of economic development effects 
should ultimately be developed.
    Comment: One respondent suggested a variety of improvements to the 
New Starts measures and for Small Starts notes that the same changes 
should be applied, though with an emphasis on methods that are easier 
to report and a consideration of only those criteria required by 
statute.
    Response: FTA's proposal intends to meet the requirements of the 
Technical Corrections Act while limiting the amount of new data and 
information required from project sponsors. FTA currently attempts to 
use measures for Small Starts that are easier to report compared to New 
Starts. FTA will continue to consider the suggestions provided as it 
develops future performance measures for the Small Starts project 
justification criteria and on future policy guidance documents.

3. Alternatives With Tunnels

    The SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act calls for the analysis, 
evaluation, and consideration of the congestion relief, improved 
mobility, and other benefits of transit tunnels in projects that 
include a tunnel, and the ancillary and mitigation costs to relieve 
congestion, improve mobility, and decrease air and noise pollution in 
projects that do not include a tunnel, but where a tunnel was 
considered. In the proposed guidance, FTA suggested it would require 
that alternatives analysis studies address these impacts of transit 
tunnels when a tunnel is part of a project or was considered during the 
alternatives analysis. FTA proposed to ensure that such information was 
addressed during alternatives analysis as part of the FTA review of 
project applications for entry into preliminary engineering.
    Comments: One respondent requested that FTA define ``tunnel'' to 
clarify when additional analysis is needed, and others noted that a 
complimentary, realistic surface option is not always available (e.g., 
commuter rail under Manhattan or light rail beneath an airport runway).
    Response: Additional analyses are required when different vertical 
alignments (i.e., at-grade versus underground) of a proposed reasonable 
alternative result in disparate impacts to automobile congestion, 
mobility, air and noise pollution, and/or any other relevant 
consideration.
    Comments: Eight respondents noted that the Technical Corrections 
Act directs FTA to analyze, evaluate, and consider the benefits of 
tunnels, but the proposed guidance does not explain how FTA will 
consider the results of the analysis in their ratings. Three 
respondents suggested, in the absence of more detailed guidance, that 
FTA not change how tunnels are currently considered in the evaluation 
criteria and continue to invite sponsors to use the ``case for the 
project'' document and ``other factors'' section of the New Starts 
submissions to highlight the benefits of tunnels not captured by the 
other criteria. One respondent suggested modifying the cost 
effectiveness measure and project justification rating to better 
account for tunnel options compared to non-tunnel options, including 
local traffic and land use issues.
    Response: As reflected in the final guidance, FTA concurs with the 
suggestion of not changing the current evaluation methods. The mobility 
improvements, operating efficiencies, land use, economic development 
effects, and cost effectiveness project justification criteria capture 
much of the benefits provided by tunnels. Additionally, FTA's 
consideration of ``other factors'', offers project sponsors the 
opportunity to present evidence not considered by the aforementioned 
criteria, including mitigation costs necessary due to the selection of 
an above-ground alignment.
    Comments: Three respondents requested that FTA describe the 
specific analyses FTA expects project sponsors to perform to meet this 
requirement. One respondent suggested that the screening of 
alternatives should be a local process and that FTA should not mandate 
specific analytical methods.
    Response: FTA is not prescribing analysis and evaluation techniques 
for assessing tunnels. Project sponsors are free to use methods deemed 
most appropriate for local conditions when evaluating the impacts of a 
tunnel option to address the transportation problems described in the 
alternatives analysis. FTA's role is to ensure consistency with the 
direction in the Technical Corrections Act and to facilitate informed 
decision making by the public and local officials by ensuring that the 
analysis is reasonable.
    Comment: One respondent suggested extending the consideration of 
tunnels (or no tunnel) to both the preliminary engineering stage of 
project development and/or through the final environmental impact 
statement.
    Response: FTA does not wish to mandate that a vertical alignment 
(be it tunnel or no tunnel) other than the locally-preferred 
alternative always be considered beyond alternatives analysis. The 
purpose of the alternatives analysis is for local decision makers to 
select a mode and general alignment--including vertical alignment. This 
decision should remain a local one.

4. Broader Comments on New and Small Starts Program

    FTA received numerous comments regarding aspects of the New and 
Small Starts programs not explicitly discussed in the proposed 
guidance, including some comments that require regulatory or 
legislative changes. For some time FTA has been considering many of 
these and other ideas. Consequently, as an initial step, FTA is issuing 
additional proposed guidance in this issue of the Federal Register 
aimed at streamlining and simplifying the New and Small Starts 
programs. FTA's efforts to streamline will continue in the future and 
the comments summarized below will be given consideration moving 
forward.
    Comments: Eight respondents suggested that FTA issue a 
comprehensive set of guidance so that project sponsors can be fully and 
accurately informed regarding current FTA requirements. Such guidance 
could respond to recent actions taken by Congress and be open to public 
comment.
    Comments: Four respondents suggested changes to the Very Small 
Starts streamlined evaluation requirements, specifically: (1) Removing 
the total project cost and cost per mile requirements; (2) removing the 
requirements on daily operations and number of riders; (3) allowing 
low-floor buses to be purchased as part of an agency-wide purchase, 
rather than as part of the project; and, (4) defining ``substantial 
long-term corridor investment'' (in a non-fixed guideway corridor) per 
the statute.

[[Page 37766]]

    Comments: Three respondents suggested that FTA implement the 
reliability rating change through notice and comment rulemaking.
    Comments: Three respondents urged FTA to streamline the planning 
and project development process. Another asked FTA to completely revamp 
the program.
    Comments: Two respondents suggested that FTA change how local 
financial commitment is recognized and how local funds can be used. One 
suggested recognizing all of the local contributions made in the 
fiscally-constrained long-range plan towards a new fixed-guideway 
system when considering the financial rating of a New Starts project. 
Another suggested allowing for so-called ``deferred local match,'' as 
well as allowing project sponsors that invest more than 20 percent of 
total project cost to follow local procedures for aspects of the 
project funded with local funds.
    Comments: Besides the previously discussed suggestion to change the 
existing practice requiring a ``medium'' cost-effectiveness rating for 
a project funding recommendation, suggestions on FTA's cost 
effectiveness index included: (1) Basing cost effectiveness on the 
amount of the Federal investment rather than the total project cost; 
(2) replacing the current cost effectiveness measure of cost per hour 
of transportation system user benefit with cost per new rider; (3) 
tying the New Starts share to the cost effectiveness measure (i.e., the 
higher the measure, the higher the allowable New Starts share); and, 
(4) updating the measure to account for inflation.
    Comments: One commenter criticized the current measure of 
environmental benefits for being biased against areas that are 
currently less dense but growing. Another commenter suggested that any 
environmental benefits measure be presented as relative, rather than 
absolute, to avoid biases against large cities.
    Comments: Suggestions regarding land use issues not mentioned 
previously included: (1) Considering the land acquisition to build 
transit-oriented developments differently when calculating project 
cost; and (2) modifying the rating to reward communities that 
demonstrate implementation of affordable, mixed-income housing 
preservation and expansion policies and community planning activities. 
Criticisms of the evaluation of land use included: (1) The practice of 
fixing land use in the analysis of the transportation benefits 
associated with the project ignores the effect of the project in 
promoting higher density; and, (2) the focus on existing land use 
ignores the inability of density to increase without the project in 
place.
    Comments: Comments on FTA's emphasis on the state of good repair 
included: (1) One respondent requested that rebuilding and maintaining 
aging infrastructure be a high priority in the next transportation 
bill; and (2) two respondents questioned why FTA rates a financial plan 
for a New Starts project that relies on section 5307 formula funds or 
section 5309 fixed guideway modernization funds less favorably than 
financial plans that do not rely on these sources.
    Comments: Suggestions regarding broad program changes included: (1) 
Considering benefits to increasing corridor capacity in the project 
justification criteria; (2) splitting the program into two categories, 
new and expansion, to allow for a more level playing field and balanced 
funding allocation; (3) providing a bonus to metropolitan areas that 
exceed ridership expectations; (4) reducing the expectations of capital 
cost and ridership estimates at early stages of project development; 
(5) allowing flexibility in the timing of when the New Starts share is 
finalized; (6) keeping the New Starts process distinct from the process 
required by the National Environmental Policy Act; (7) working with the 
Federal Highway Administration to develop a uniform project development 
process for multi-modal projects; and, (8) expanding ``warrants'', such 
as those used for Very Small Starts, to larger projects.

Final Guidance

1. New Starts Project Justification Rating

    The project justification rating of a project seeking New Starts 
funding will be based on ratings for the following criteria with the 
weights shown in parentheses: mobility improvements (20%), 
environmental benefits (10%), cost effectiveness (20%), operating 
efficiencies (10%), economic development effects (20%), and public 
transportation supportive land use (20%).
    FTA's approach to the measures and ratings is to base them on 
existing procedures and information produced by project sponsors to the 
extent possible. This allows for their immediate implementation because 
new information, along with the additional time required for project 
sponsors to develop it, is not required. More significant changes have 
been postponed until FTA completes development of more robust measures, 
particularly for environmental benefits and economic development 
effects. The measures for the mobility improvements, environmental 
benefits, and cost effectiveness criteria do not change at this time 
under this guidance. The operating efficiencies criterion will be 
evaluated and rated as it was in fiscal year 2008 and earlier using the 
incremental difference in system-wide operating cost per passenger mile 
between the build and the baseline alternatives. To avoid requiring new 
information from project sponsors until such time as FTA develops more 
robust measures, the economic development effects rating will be based 
on two of the three subfactors previously used to rate public 
transportation supportive land use--transit supportive plans and 
policies, and performance and impact of policies. The remaining land 
use subfactor previously used--existing land use--will be the basis for 
the public transportation supportive land use rating. Each of these 
three subfactors, although separated into two separate measures, will 
be evaluated and rated as they were previously.
    The rating for each criterion will be expressed descriptively as 
``low,'' ``medium-low,'' ``medium,'' ``medium-high,'' or ``high,'' with 
a corresponding numerical rating of one to five used in aggregation 
calculations.
    A simple approach was used to determine the magnitude of the 
weights of all the project justification criteria, but not the 
simplest. The simplest would be to make all weights equal, meaning 
between 16 and 17 percent. The lower weights for the environmental 
benefits and operating efficiencies criteria acknowledge the transit 
community's lack of consensus about useful, easily reported measures 
for these criteria that can be used to meaningfully distinguish between 
projects.
    FTA is conducting research to identify useful measures for the 
environmental benefits criterion. Likewise, in a Federal Register 
notice published on January 26, 2009, FTA issued and sought comments on 
a discussion paper on new, alternative ways of evaluating economic 
development effects. FTA is now reviewing comments on that paper.

2. Small Starts Project Justification Rating

    The project justification rating of a project seeking Small Starts 
funding will be based on ratings for the following criteria with the 
proposed weights shown in parentheses: cost effectiveness (one third), 
economic development effects (one third), and

[[Page 37767]]

public transportation supportive land use policies (one third).
    FTA's approach to the project justification measures for Small 
Starts is identical to that described above for New Starts, meaning 
that they are based on existing procedures and information produced by 
project sponsors to the extent possible. The measure and rating for the 
cost effectiveness criterion does not change under this guidance. The 
measures and ratings for the economic development effects and public 
transportation supportive land use criteria are identical to those 
proposed for New Starts. The economic development effects rating will 
be based on two of the three subfactors previously used to rate land 
use (following the data reporting simplifications already in place for 
Small Starts projects)--transit supportive plans and policies and 
performance and impact of policies. The remaining land use subfactor 
previously used--existing land use--will be the basis for the public 
transportation supportive land use rating.
    The simplest approach was used to determine the magnitude of the 
weights, with all of them weighted equally.
    Projects that qualify for the Very Small Starts streamlined 
evaluation will continue to receive an automatic ``medium'' rating for 
project justification.

3. Alternatives With Tunnels

    As a condition of advancement into preliminary engineering, FTA 
requires that alternatives analysis studies specifically analyze, 
evaluate, and consider the congestion relief, improved mobility, and 
other benefits of transit tunnels in those projects that include a 
transit tunnel and the associated ancillary and mitigation costs 
necessary to relieve congestion, improve mobility, and decrease air and 
noise pollution in those projects that do not include a tunnel, but 
where a transit tunnel was one of the alternatives analyzed. Additional 
analyses are required when different vertical alignments (i.e., at-
grade versus underground) of a proposed reasonable alternative result 
in disparate impacts to automobile congestion, mobility, air and noise 
pollution, and/or any other relevant consideration. FTA will ensure 
that such information has been addressed during the alternative 
analysis of projects that considered a tunnel as part of the FTA review 
of project applications for entry into preliminary engineering.
    The mobility improvements, operating efficiencies, land use, 
economic development effects, and cost effectiveness project 
justification criteria capture much of the benefits provided by 
tunnels. Additionally, FTA's consideration of ``other factors,'' 
including the ``case for the project'' document, offers project 
sponsors the opportunity to present evidence not considered by the 
aforementioned criteria, including mitigation costs necessary due to 
the selection of an above-ground alignment. In evaluating the 
consequences of a tunnel option compared to a surface option, project 
sponsors are encouraged to use the full range of FTA project 
justification criteria to support local decision making during project 
planning.

    Issued on: July 24, 2009.
Peter M. Rogoff,
Administrator, Federal Transit Administration.
[FR Doc. E9-18092 Filed 7-24-09; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE P