The US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, has published formulas and grant application requirements for transit funding under the American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA). [Federal Register, Vol. 74, No. 42, Thursday March 5, 2009.]  

The ARRA includes a total of $8.4 billion in General Fund dollars for public transportation, appropriated for three different programs: Transit Capital Assistance, Fixed Guideway Infrastructure Investment, and Capital Investment Grants.  

According to the FTA, all eligible projects must be included in the approved Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and, in Urbanized Areas (UZAs), the metropolitan transportation plan and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Transit agencies should be working within their metropolitan or statewide transportation planning processes to ensure that their priority projects are included in those documents and made ready for grant award.  

The Transit Capital Assistance program is a competitive discretionary grant process. Examples of eligible capital projects include: preventive maintenance; acquiring, constructing, supervising, or inspecting equipment or a facility for use in public transportation; rehabilitating buses; and construction or renovation of intercity rail stations and terminals.  

The funding is available through Metropolitan Planning Organizations in urbanized areas, and rural transit agencies in non-urbanized areas. The Federal share of a grant is up to 100 percent of the net project cost of Transit Capital Assistance capital projects and state administrative expenses. However, under the ARRA, operating funds are not eligible.  

For Michigan, the following amounts will be available to eligible agencies through the Transit Capital Assistance program:  

Detroit (SEMCOG) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $57.7 million  

Ann Arbor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $6.4  

Flint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $7.9  

Grand Rapids . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10.6  

Lansing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $7.1  

South Bend area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5.6  

Toledo area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $8.8  

Kalamazoo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $3.1  

Muskegon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $2.47  

Saginaw. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $2.46  

Holland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1.6  

S. Lyon/Brighton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1.5  

Jackson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1.46  

Port Huron . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1.38  

Bay City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1.28  

Battle Creek . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1.26  

State discretionary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $18.5  

All Non-Urbanized . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $25.8

Under the Fixed Guideway Infrastructure Investment, the ARRA provides $750 million to modernize or improve existing rail transit systems, (ie, “fixed guideway systems”). Funds are allocated by a statutory formula to UZAs with fixed guideway systems that have been in operation for at least seven years. A ‘‘fixed guideway’’ refers to any transit service that uses exclusive or controlled rights-of-way or rails, entirely or in part. The term includes heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, monorail, trolleybus, aerial tramway, inclined plane, cable car, automated guideway transit, ferryboats, that portion of motor bus service operated on exclusive or controlled rights-of-way, and high occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes. Eligible projects include the purchase or rehabilitation of rolling stock, track, equipment, or facilities.  

In Michigan, Detroit’s People Mover is the only eligible agency in this category. Under the Fixed Guideway formula, Detroit is eligible for $133,125.  

The Capital Investment Grants: New Starts/Small Starts programs provide funds for construction of major capital investments in new fixed guideway systems, extensions to existing fixed guideway systems, or, in the case of Small Starts, corridor-based bus projects. The FTA has not yet announced allocations for the Capital Investment Grants (New/Small Starts). According to the FTA, a separate Federal Register notice on the Capital Investment Grants program allocations will be published shortly.  

The Michigan Department of Transportation has already identified one Bus Rapid Transit project as a proposed grant recipient. The proposed project would direct $310 million toward a rapid bus route from Mt. Clemens, running on Gratiot Blvd., down to Woodward Ave. in Detroit. Another potential project is the proposed Washtenaw/Livingston Rail Washtenaw-Livingston Line (WALLY). This project would use funds for capital investments on the Great Lakes Central rail line between Howell and Ann Arbor. The track rehabilitation and signal upgrades would allow for a potential commuter line.  

Federal Guidance Expected Soon on Rail Funding  

Under the ARRA, $9.3 billion total has also been designated for rail funding. This includes $8 billion in discretionary grants for “High Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Rail,” and $1.3 billion for Amtrak. However, USDOT has not yet published any guidance on these discretionary grants. A majority of the high speed funding is expected to go to the Northeast High Speed Corridor. The remainder may not have any geographic or formula limitations. According to the ARRA, the funds will remain available until September 30, 2014, with priority to intercity high speed rail projects or use of the funds to deploy high speed passenger rail system.  

The Michigan Department of Transportation intends to apply for its fair share of rail funds, but has been forced into a holding pattern while the federal government draws up a list of guidelines for states to meet before they are eligible to receive the money.  

Michigan is part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a consortium of nine states working to develop a passenger rail system with shorter travel times, and connections between urban centers and smaller communities. The consortium is focused on creating a reliable, effective and efficient high-speed rail corridor between the Detroit area and Chicago. MDOT will seek ARRA rail funding for upgrades to equipment, stations, tracks and crossings, train control and communications along the Detroit to Chicago route.  

MDOT hopes to increase train speeds on sections of the Detroit/Chicago rail corridor from the current high end of 95 mph to 110 mph. Right now, Michigan is the only state outside of the Northeast that has a section of high-speed rail where trains can travel at more than 80 mph, (on a 45-mile stretch of track between Kalamazoo and Niles).