In a letter (PDF) that also echoed concerns from some local transit advocates about the project, the FTA officially approved the MTA's request to move into Final Design on the 1.7-mile light rail and subway line, which is considered phase two of the T-Third light rail line, extending it from Fourth and King Streets to Chinatown. The approval is an important step for the project as the MTA moves towards eventually seeking a full-funding grant agreement from the FTA, the final step in the New Starts process.
It will still be almost two years before Muni could receive a full grant for the subway, which is now expected to cost $1.6 billion, with service currently expected to begin in 2018.
"We are deeply gratified by this decision," said MTA Executive Director Nat Ford in a release. "We are making tremendous progress toward improved transportation for the communities along the congested corridor that the Central Subway will serve."
In the second paragraph of the four-page letter, the FTA states several concerns that transit advocates and project critics have had about the project, including the MTA's ability to maintain its equipment in a state of good repair, which is required by federal law before the FTA will fund new projects. Before the FTA will consider awarding a full-funding grant agreement, the MTA will be required to "develop and implement a financial plan demonstrating that construction and operation of the Central Subway project will not adversely affect current transit operations or reduce state of good repair expenditures."Read more...