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Metro gets another approval from the feds

Haven’t seen this in the papers, but according to Metro, they have received final federal approval for the Southeast line.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) granted its final approval of the Southeast Corridor Supplemental Final Environmental Statement (SFEIS) through a document known as a Record of Decision (ROD).

The FTA made its decision in part because the project would be a permanent investment, and therefore “this new transit system has the potential to positively influence economic development in the Southeast Corridor consistent with community plans.”

Earlier this month the FTA granted a ROD for the North Corridor light-rail project. The RODs are a key step toward obtaining federal funding, as they establish that these two projects satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and other legal requirements. The RODs also documents the many opportunities afforded to the community to voice their concerns.

METRO is seeking federal funds for three of the five light-rail expansion lines. In addition to the North and Southeast Corridors, the agency will seek federal funds for the University Corridor. The University Corridor light-rail project is still in the environmental process.

These three lines, together with the Uptown and East End lines, are scheduled to be completed in 2012. Construction is already underway in the East End. Now that METRO has obtained the two RODs, METRO can resume the purchase of property for the right-of-way. Groundbreaking for the North and Southeast lines is expected this Fall.

Ground has already been broken on the East End/Harrisburg line. The Uptown line, which will be paid for entirely by Metro, is dependent on the Universities line, so we won’t hear anything more about it till the U-line has its funding secured. As Tory and Christof have both observed, the new Commuter Rail proposal will be heavily dependent on the light rail network if it’s to be done right. So, lots of rail action going on right now, with even more to come soon.

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