USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Major Capital Investments (New Starts & Small Starts) (5309(b)(1))

Note: This information is provided for historical reference only. The information contained on this page reflects information about this program under the previous authorizing legislation entitled the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). For up-to-date information on the program and how FTA runs it under the new authorizing legislation entitled the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP 21), please see Capital Investments Program page.

Program Overview

The transit capital investment program (49 U.S.C. 5309) provides capital assistance for three primary activities:

The New Starts program provides funds for construction of new fixed guideway systems or extensions to existing fixed guideway systems. The Small Starts program provides funds to capital projects that either (a) meet the definition of a fixed guideway for at least 50 percent of the project length in the peak period or (b) are corridor-based bus projects with 10 minute peak/15 minute off-peak headways or better while operating at least 14 hours per weekday.  The Federal assistance provided or to be provided under Section 5309(e) must be less than $75 million and the project must have a total capital cost of less than $250 million, both in year of expenditure dollars

Eligible Recipients

Eligible applicants under the New Starts program are public bodies and agencies (transit authorities and other state and local public bodies and agencies thereof) including states, municipalities, other political subdivisions of states; public agencies and instrumentalities of one or more states; and certain public corporations, boards, and commissions established under state law.

Eligible Activities

Eligible activities are light rail, rapid rail (heavy rail), commuter rail, monorail, automated fixed guideway system (such as a “people mover”), or a busway/high occupancy vehicle (HOV) facility, or an extension of any of these. Projects become candidates for funding under this program by successfully completing the appropriate steps in the major capital investment planning and project development process.

Major new fixed guideway projects, or extension to existing systems financed with New Starts funds, typically receive these funds through Full Funding Grant Agreement (New Starts) or a Project Construction Grant Agreement (Small Starts) that defines the scope of the project and specifies the total multi-year Federal commitment to the project.

Statutory Reference

49 USC §5309

Funding Availability

Funds are available the year appropriated plus two years (total of three years)

Allocation of Funding

Historically, the program has been fully earmarked.  However, if unallocated or discretionary funds are available, those funds may be allocated at the discretion of the Secretary of Transportation.


The statutory match for New Starts funding is 80 percent Federal, 20 percent local.  However, for projects under a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA), FTA continues to encourage project sponsors to request a Federal New Starts funding share that is as low as possible.  The Congressional Conference Report that accompanied the FY 2002 Department of Transportation Appropriations Act instructs “FTA not to sign any new full funding grant agreements after September 30, 2002 that have a maximum Federal share of higher than 60 percent.”

Contact Information

For additional information about the Section 5309(b)(1) Program, contact the Office of Program Management: (202) 366-2053.