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Highlights

The Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Capital Investment Grant program funds, among other things, projects for fixed-guideway systems--often called New Starts projects. In 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act-A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established a category of lower-cost projects--Small Starts--which expands project eligibility and offers streamlined requirements. FTA subsequently created the Very Small Starts category with a further streamlined process for very low-cost projects. Exempt projects, those receiving under $25 million and typically designated by Congress, also have a simplified process. As part of GAO's annual mandate to review New Starts, this report describes (1) the history of Small Starts and Very Small Starts and the type of projects FTA recommended for funding; (2) the project development requirements for Small Starts and Very Small Starts and what stakeholders identify as the advantages and disadvantages of the requirements; and (3) the project development requirements for exempt projects, the projects selected to receive funding, and what stakeholders identify as the advantages and disadvantages of this category. Among other things, GAO analyzed laws, regulations, and agency guidance, and interviewed FTA headquarters staff and stakeholders from 7 FTA regional offices, 15 projects, and 2 industry groups. DOT officials reviewed a draft of this report and provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate.

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