Feds writing rule to encourage private sector investment in public transit

Feds writing rule to encourage private sector investment in public transit

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is writing a new rule aimed at encouraging more private sector investment in public transportation projects.

The DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on Monday that would allow public transit projects to streamline some steps in the regulatory or permit approval process if they prove that it will attract more private investors.

Speeding up the project approval process has been a top priority for the Trump administration and is expected to be included in the president’s $1 trillion infrastructure package. The White House has said that the effort will help spur more public-private partnerships.

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“One of the Trump Administration’s priorities is to allow private sector resources and expertise to help rebuild America’s infrastructure,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

“This proposal will help us better understand the ways that unnecessary procedures may get in the way of building the best projects possible at the lowest cost to the public.”

Denver’s Regional Transportation District (Denver RTD) and the Metropolitan Transit District of Harris County (Houston Metro) have both used private investors to help build transit projects as part of a FTA pilot program.

Under the new proposed system, public transportation projects could request a waiver or modification to FTA “regulations, practices, procedures or guidance documents” if the applicant proves that the steps are discouraging private sector involvement.

However, the system could not be used to skirt any National Environmental Policy Act requirements or any other provision of federal statute.

The FTA is accepting public comments on the proposal until Sept. 29.

“As more public transportation project sponsors find willing and able private partners, we must ensure that federal regulations or procedures do not stifle innovation,” said Matthew Welbes, FTA’s executive director.

“FTA’s Private Investment Project Procedures will help us maintain procedures that are truly beneficial while allowing for discretion to waive those that simply impede good projects.”

- This story was updated at 12:29 p.m.