Mass Transit:

FTA's Progress in Developing and Implementing a New Starts Evaluation Process

RCED-99-113: Published: Apr 26, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1999.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) efforts to develop and implement evaluation and rating processes and procedures for evaluating new start transit projects for federal funding, focusing on: (1) the status of FTA's efforts; (2) how FTA implemented the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) requirements for evaluating, rating, and recommending projects; and (3) open issues that FTA needs to resolve to fully satisfy TEA-21 requirements.

GAO noted that: (1) FTA has made substantial progress in developing and implementing a new starts evaluation and rating process, as required by TEA-21; (2) FTA had already revised its new starts evaluation process, since the criteria and most of the factors that TEA-21 requires FTA to consider while applying the criteria were also contained in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991; (3) in 1997, FTA first applied these criteria for its fiscal year (FY) 1999 project evaluations; (4) in 1998, FTA expanded its evaluation process to include the TEA-21 requirement to rate projects as either highly recommended, recommended, or not recommended and to provide individual ratings on each criterion; (5) the evaluation process FTA followed to prepare its FY 2000 new starts report uses ratings based on specific financial and project justification criteria to build toward an overall project rating; (6) FTA uses this rating information in deciding which projects will receive full funding grant agreements and to make funding recommendations to the Congress in its annual new starts report; (7) while FTA has implemented a new starts evaluation and rating process for FY 2000 that addressed TEA-21 requirements, it has not issued final regulations on the evaluation and rating process, as required by the legislation; and (8) FTA issued a proposed rule on April 7, 1999, and plans to issue final regulations in summer 1999.

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