The New Starts program is an important source of new capital investment in mass transportation. As required by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) must prioritize transit projects for funding by evaluating, rating, and recommending projects on the basis of specific financial commitment and project justification criteria, such as cost-effectiveness, economic development effects, land use, and environmental benefits. To be eligible for federal funding, a project must advance through the different project development phases of the New Starts program, including alternatives analysis, preliminary engineering, and final design. Using the statutorily identified criteria, FTA evaluates projects as a condition for advancement into each project development phase of the program. This testimony discusses the (1) key challenges associated with the New Starts program and (2) options that could help expedite project development in the New Starts program. This testimony is based on GAO's extensive body of work on the New Starts program and ongoing work--as directed by Congress. For this work, GAO reviewed FTA documents and interviewed FTA officials, sponsors of New Starts projects, and representatives from industry associations. The FTA reviewed the information in this testimony and provided technical comments.
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