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The administration’s wish list recommends federal funding for 18 transit projects in 11 states.
The Biden administration put a new Hudson rail tunnel, subway expansions in Chicago and New York, and bus rapid transit projects in Denver and Charleston, South Carolina, on the top of its $4.45 billion transit construction wish list Thursday.
“We are recommending federal funding for 18 major transit projects in 11 states. When these projects are complete, the result will be that more Americans will be able to take safe, reliable and efficient transit to wherever they need to be,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters. “Each one is a game-changing project in the region where it will be built or will be continued.”
The recommendations from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are part of the administration’s budget proposal. Congress would need to sign off on the projects for them to receive the money recommended for them.
Still, the list lays out the administration’s priorities and serves as a starting point for congressional negotiators as they flesh out a budget next fiscal year.
The New York area, in particular, fares well under the proposal. The FTA recommended increased funding for two projects that are already in its pipeline for construction grants. It wants to dedicate another $700 million in preparation for building new rail tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Penn Station. The agency also called for adding nearly $500 million for the next phase of the Second Avenue subway extension.
The budget proposes another $500 million to continue connecting Silicon Valley and downtown San Jose to the Bay Area’s subway network. The Los Angeles area would receive another $167 million to provide light rail service to the East San Fernando Valley. And Minnesota would get $291 million to extend its Green Line in downtown Minneapolis to suburban areas to the southwest.
The Biden administration also wants to speed up its planned spending on four projects, which Administrator Nuria Fernandez of the Federal Railroad Administration said would help lower the financing costs for the agencies that are carrying them out. Those projects include two subway extensions on the Westside of Los Angeles, the Minnesota Green Line expansion and a light rail addition in the Seattle area.
The new projects that the administration recommended funding for are:
Chicago ‘L’ expansion: The administration suggested allocating $350 million for an expansion of the Red Line on the city’s South Side. The 5.6-mile extension would add four stations between the current end of the line and the southernmost neighborhoods of the city, including the predominantly Black neighborhood of Rosedale, which have no nearby rail service. The Chicago Transit Authority wants the federal government to eventually pick up 60% of the project’s $3.7 billion cost.
Utah FrontRunner: Biden’s budget blueprint calls for $317 million to install a second track on several segments of the FrontRunner line, which runs from Ogden through Salt Lake City into Provo. The new track, along with additional locomotives and cars, would allow FrontRunner trains to come every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes during peak travel times. The improvements would increase capacity on the line by 55%.
Bus Rapid Transit: The budget includes a proposal to direct $150 million to the Houston area transit system to build dedicated lanes for the entire route of its university corridor bus project. The plan is to run electric-powered buses seven days a week for 20 hours a day, with buses arriving every 6 to 12 minutes. The Biden administration is also recommending funding for bus rapid transit systems in the Twin Cities; Denver; Utah; Monterey County, California; and Charleston, South Carolina.
Daniel C. Vock is a senior reporter for Route Fifty based in Washington, D.C.