FTA's "New Starts" Strikes Again
This time it's in Nashville. As reported in the June '05 issue of Mass Transit Magazine (that specific issue is not as of yet up on the web), construction of the Regional Transportation Authority's "Music City Star" commuter service was delayed to some extent by the Federal Transit Administration.
See my previous post concerning New Starts in Los Angeles. The Lesson: Delays mean more cost.
Apparenty, the issue revolves around the FTA's interpretation of the exceptions for commuter rail as listed in the CFR's documentation of level boarding. Typically, commuter railroads use mini-lifts or mini-high platforms as needed to operate effectively without encroaching on the clearances required for Freight Operations. The FTA decided to place the burden of proof on each Agency, Nashville RTA here, to prove that the intended exception is met when Fast Starts money is used. Oddly, it was the regional office of the FTA, combined with local reps, that got the issue resolved. As a result, Mini-high platforms are now being constructed.
No one doubts the need for these Mini-high Platforms. What is also needed, and what needs to be addressed as noted in the article, is the writing of clear and concise direction that provides any commuter rail using "New Starts" with specific criteria that must be met during design. The result: There will be a simple yes-or-no answer instead of a lengthy burden-of-proof process. Hopefully, the FTA will take up this responsibility and create this criteria. Projects will speed up, and money will be saved.