WASHINGTON — The Federal Transit Administration has launched a $775 million grant program to help local and state governments finance capital projects involving buses and bus facilities. The allocations will be announced in September.
The FTA announced the criteria for applications yesterday, saying the grants will help with “recent limitations in state and local resources” that have made it hard for local transit agencies to “meet their basic re-investment needs.”
The program will require at least a 20% local contribution, though the federal share may be as much as 90% if the project is related to the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Clean Air Act, or if the grant is used to buy a biodiesel bus or hybrid systems.
Applicants will have to submit documentation showing the amount and source of their matching funds, “demonstrating strong local or private-sector financial participation in the project,” as well as bond ratings and audited financial statements.
Grants can be given only to recipients with no “outstanding legal, technical, or financial issues ... that would make this a high-risk project to implement quickly,” according to an FTA announcement published in the Federal Register yesterday.
Unlike other recent competitive grant programs launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FTA will take applications for any amount — there is no minimum or maximum grant — though the agency will consider “geographic diversity” and try to distribute funds to as many projects as possible.
A report by the FTA last year found that the seven oldest and largest transit agencies had $50 billion of backlogged bus and rail repairs and replacements.
Eligible recipients will include urban-area transit agencies, states, and Indian tribes.
Most projects in rural areas must be part of a state proposal in order to be eligible. However, public agencies, private nonprofit groups, and private transportation providers also will be able to receive the funds as sub-recipients.
Grantees can use the funds to buy buses, vans, and bus equipment, to build or repair bus facilities, and to buy or repair fare equipment or passenger facilities. They also can use funds to improve or create new systems to operate, maintain, improve, or expand their assets.
Proposals will be due June 18, at which point the project must be ready to go, with environmental work already initiated for any construction projects that require environmental reports.
Meanwhile, President Obama signed into law an extension of Federal Aviation Administration and its funding authority through July 3.
The House and Senate have not settled on a bill to change the funding structure for the FAA and airports, so they have passed short-term extensions of the law for more than two years.