Could BRT go on without federal money?

Could BRT go on without federal money?

Local officials have resubmitted the application for a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project between Downtown and Oakland to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) with some changes in the frequency of vehicles and the project’s connection to the existing busway.

When the project was given a rating last November, the total capital cost was $195.5 million, with $97.7 million (50 percent) coming from the Section 5309 Small Starts program (the federal government was to provide an additional $28.3 million above that). State and local sources ($69 million combined) made up the remainder.

The Allegheny County chief executive noted, as he had previously, that the BRT would “move ahead” even if the federal money does not materialize. It is not clear why that point has been raised. Is there a suspicion that the federal government is going to deny the funding request? That there could be a holdup in the money arriving even if there is an approval? If the federal money is not critical, why even bother with the process of submitting and resubmitting the proposal, conducting site visits from federal officials and undergoing feasibility studies and waiting for the FTA to make a decision?

What would fill the void if the $126 million in federal money did not materialize has not been made known. If it fell 50/50 on state and local sources it would require both levels of government coming up with an additional $63 million each on top of what is already committed, assuming either level would be willing to put in more (the amounts committed may just be the usual formula matches on transportation projects).

Would the project be viewed in the same light if there was not the prospect of the federal government funding a big portion of it, like the North Shore Connector?