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.

Find the Latest Information on the Coronavirus/COVID-19 at FTA's Coronavirus landing page.

United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Streamlining the Federal New Starts/Small Starts Program


Dear Colleague:

Last night, President Obama presented a blueprint for an economy built to last over the long term and called on the federal government to do its part to deliver solutions to expand opportunities for all Americans while cutting red tape.

The Federal Transit Administration has continually done its part by returning billions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars back to communities across the country through our New Starts/Small Starts Program. The program continues to generate dozens of projects that are transformational, create economic opportunity, and improve our quality of life. Now, the President has challenged us to do even more. And we at the FTA believe we can do more.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the FTA has taken another critical step in modernizing and streamlining the New Starts/Small Starts Program. You will find in today’s Federal Register our Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and accompanying draft guidance on a new and streamlined method by which we will evaluate the merits of these major transit investments. The NPRM and guidance can also be found here. The sixty-day review and comment period for our proposal starts today.

First and foremost, the primary goal of the proposal is to better ensure that capital projects truly capture the vision and unique needs of local communities. No longer will we have rules that cause project sponsors to feel that the FTA is seeking to design their projects from Washington D.C.

Here’s how FTA proposes to make it easier for communities to build a better transportation and economic future that meets their needs, while cutting red tape along the way:

  • FTA is serious about taking a more holistic approach to evaluating all of a project’s benefits to capture the vision of a community. We will use a broad set of measures, including environmental benefits and a project’s impact on local economic development.
  • FTA will no longer require project sponsors to use the antiquated formula comparing a project’s travel timesavings against a Washington-derived hypothetical baseline; it doesn’t make sense. Our proposal asks project sponsors to calculate the anticipated ridership of the project they actually intend to build. It is an approach based in reality.

Taken together, these changes could potentially shave six months or more off the time now required to advance major projects through the New Starts pipeline. Further, these changes may save the government and taxpayers money by allowing approved projects to begin construction sooner.

In January 2010, Transportation Secretary LaHood and I announced our plan to change how major transit projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance from FTA. As part of this initiative, FTA rescinded restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in March of 2005 that greatly limited the factors that would be considered when evaluating transit projects. Today’s NPRM puts "meat on the bones" in detailing our new streamlined process for making investment decisions in the future.

Now more than ever, Americans need good transportation choices that improve mobility, enhance access to jobs, and encourage sustainable communities. In calendar year 2011, FTA signed more capital construction agreements than in any 12-month period in the agency’s history. But, Secretary LaHood and I think we can still do better. This proposal makes another serious step toward reform.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support in modernizing and improving the effectiveness of FTA’s programs. And for the service you provide to the transit-riding public every day.



Last updated: Sunday, October 4, 2015