U.S. Transportation Secretary Announces $280 Million for Streetcars

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the availability of $280 million for urban circulator projects such as streetcars, buses, and bus facilities to support communities, expand business opportunities and improve people’s quality of life while also creating jobs.

The money represents the first batch of taxpayers’ money by the Obama Administration for its Livability Initiative, a joint venture of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“This represents a significant effort to promote livable communities, improve the quality of life for more Americans and create more transportation choices that serve the needs of individual communities,” LaHood said.  “Fostering the concept of livability in transportation projects will stimulate America’s neighborhoods to become safer, healthier and more vibrant.”

Secretary LaHood made the announcement at the historic Carrollton Car Barn streetcar facility with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin during a tour of the city’s Katrina recovery efforts.

“Not only will these urban circulator and bus projects provide Americans with new neighborhood-friendly transit systems, they will give us a cleaner environment and create much-needed jobs,” Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said.

A maximum amount of $25 million per project will be made available from approximately $130 million in unallocated discretionary New Starts/Small Starts Program funds.  Eligible projects include streetcars and other urban circulator systems. Priority will be given to projects that connect destinations and foster the redevelopment of communities into walkable, mixed use, high-density environments.

A second pot of money totaling $150 million in unallocated discretionary Bus and Bus Facility funds will be available for projects that will foster the preservation and enhancement of urban and rural communities by providing new mobility options which provide access to jobs, healthcare, and education, and/or contribute to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into pedestrian-friendly vibrant environments.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) plans to announce grants early in 2010.