Policy News

Public Comments Sought on HUD Grant Program

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued an Advance Notice with a description and framework for a new Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program.

The administration is requesting public comments on the program, which is part of the Sustainable Communities Initiative created in the FY 2010 budget. Of the $150 million provided to the initiative, $100 million will be made available in grants to fund sustainable regional planning. HUD is seeking input from state and local governments, regional bodies, community development entities, and other stakeholders structuring the program in order to have the most meaningful impact in creating "economically competitive, healthy, opportunity-rich communities."

More information, including a link to provide comments, may be found at http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/

For updates from the HUD Office of Sustainability, visit www.hud.gov/sustainability.

To send comments or ideas to APA, please e-mail govtaffairs@planning.org.

President Obama Announces High-Speed Rail Grants

President Obama and Vice President Biden travelled to Tampa, Florida, on January 28 to announce the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act High-Speed and Inter-city Passenger Rail grants.

The $8 billion investment will go primarily to new, large-scale high-speed rail programs — projects such as developing a high-speed rail corridors between Tampa and Orlando and from Los Angeles to San Francisco. In total, 31 states and the District of Columbia will receive awards. In addition to 13 corridor investments, several grants are directed to improvement projects and planning.  

The Obama administration has made high-speed rail a transportation funding priority, citing the benefits of wide-spread expansion of rail capabilities: competitive trip-times to short-haul flights, reduced congestion on routes between cities, reduced transportation emissions, and job creation.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will be improving existing rail lines to make current train service faster and identifying potential corridors for high-speed rail. In April 2009, the administration released a long-term plan for high speed rail. In addition to the $8 billion awarded today, the plan also included $1 billion per year for five years in the federal budget as a major investment in the program. Applicants have submitted more than $55 billion in project proposals for the initial $8 billion in funds awarded today.

Additional funding for high-speed rail was also included in the FY2010 budget, and APA will be monitoring the FY 2011 budget when it is released for further grant opportunities.

For more information and details on the individual projects, visit:



Policy Shift Changes Transit Grant Criteria

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced in January 2010 that criteria and project evaluation for the federal New Starts and Small Starts grant programs will be changing dramatically. The New Starts and Small Starts programs are the primary federal program providing funding for locally planned, implemented, and operated transit "guideway" capital investments.

New guidelines for evaluating project proposals will feature an increased emphasis on livability measures such as economic development opportunities, connection of land use, and environmental benefits.   

"We're going to free our flagship transit capital program from long-standing requirements that have allowed us to only green-light projects that meet very narrow cost and performance criteria," said LaHood. "Instead, as we evaluate major transit projects going forward, we'll consider all the factors that help communities reduce their carbon footprint, spur economic activity and relieve congestion."

These guidelines are a reversal from the previous administration, which instituted a formula that primarily focused on a narrowly defined view of "cost effectiveness" based on cost and commute time saved.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will now evaluate environmental, land use, economic, and community benefits, as well as congestion relief (as called for in federal transportation law) in the consideration of transit projects.

APA objected to the revised cost effectiveness priority standard and applauds this action from U.S. DOT to spur investment in projects that build communities of lasting value.   

The action immediately suspends the Bush-era rules. FTA will also initiative a new rule-making process for the New Starts and Small Starts program to further clarify the new approach.  It expected that the new approach will speed federal funding for a variety of transit projects, particularly street car, light rail, and busway initiatives.

For more information, visit www.fta.dot.gov/planning/newstarts/planning_environment_11045.html.