FUNDING approval is being sought for urban rail projects in 11 US cities under the federal budget for fiscal 2001. A total of $6·3bn has been allocated to public transport, an increase of 9% on the current year but less than the $7·3bn previously authorised under the TEA-21 legislation.

The principal new start is the 18·5 km Hiawatha Avenue light rail line in Minneapolis-St Paul, for which full funding agreement will be sought along with approval for a further 11 extensions or upgrading projects in 10 cities. Amongst them is the long-planned Stage II of Pittsburgh’s light rail rehabilitation (p137), reconstruction of the Douglas branch of Chicago’s Blue line, and the second stage of the Hudson - Bergen light rail line (RG 12.99 p777).

The budget also provides a further $242m for on-going projects in California, including $50m for completing the North Hollywood extension of the Los Angeles Red line (left), $65m for the Mission Valley East LRT extension in San Diego, $80m for continuing construction of BART’s extension to San Francisco International Airport, and $35m for light rail construction in Sacramento.

Announcing the proposals, Vice President Al Gore said ’investing in important mass transit projects like these is the key to rebuilding our cities and creating liveable communities.’ The public transport allocation is part of the ’Liveable Communities Initiative’ which aims to ease traffic congestion and reduce pollution in cities. Its budget for 2001 has been raised by $1·1bn to $9·1bn. From this, Congress will be asked to appropriate $211m to fund start-up costs for the 12 schemes, whose total value is more than $6bn (below).

TABLE: Rail projects selected for FY2001 funding (US$m)

City Project Total cost 2001 grant

Baltimore Light rail double-tracking 153·7 10

Chicago CTA Blue line reconstruction (10·6 km) 450 17

Chicago Metra Southwest Corridor commuter rail extension (30·6 km) 165·4 10

Denver Southeast Corridor light rail 882·5 20

Memphis Medical Center light rail extension 69·1 14·2

Minneapolis-St. Paul Hiawatha Avenue light rail (18·5 km) 548·6 20

NJ Transit Hudson-Bergen waterfront LRT Segment 2 1100 -

Pittsburgh Light Rail Transit project stage II 383·7 20

Portland Interstate Avenue MAX light rail extension 350 40

Salt Lake City University light rail line (4 km) 105·8 15

Seattle Central Link light rail line (33·8 km) 1500 35

Washington DC Blue line extension to Largo, Maryland (4·8 km) 433·9 10