Waco Transit System (WTS) is the study sponsor for the BRT Project and was granted entry into Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA’s) Project Development phase to advance the project. Under the FTA's Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Small Starts program. WTS initiated the current phase of the project including preliminary engineering and environmental review in August of 2020.
Small Start refers to the category for eligible projects in FTA’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program. Federal transit law requires transit agencies seeking CIG funding to complete a series of steps over several years. For Small Starts projects, the law requires completion of one phase in advance of receipt of a construction grant agreement – Project Development. The law also requires projects to be rated by FTA at various points in the process according to statutory criteria evaluating project justification and local financial commitment.
Project Development activities include the work necessary to complete the environmental review process and complete a sufficient level of engineering and design necessary to support the environmental review and evaluation process. Engineering and design also must be completed at a level to develop reasonable cost estimates, a financial plan, utility relocations and property acquisitions.
During the preliminary engineering phase, the design team will develop conceptual design layouts that help prioritize BRT along the proposed 13-mile corridor. This includes designing signing and pavement markings and evaluating opportunities that will improve travel time for the BRT such as redesigning some of the existing bus pull-outs along the project corridor. The design team will also be evaluating traffic data to identify recommendations for signal modifications to improve travel time for the BRT and general traffic.
As part of the preliminary engineering phase, the design team will evaluate each station location to develop conceptual station siting and shelter layouts designed to improve the experience for all users from the bus driver to the passengers. The station platform design considerations will include coordinating the height of the platform with the floor height of the BRT vehicle and any other vehicles that may share the platform to allow near-level boarding to minimize dwell time at stations. Station amenities such as off-board fare collection, real-time bus arrival signs, informational kiosks, seating, and other pedestrian improvements will also be further evaluated during preliminary engineering.
Sign up to receive notices about future public involvement opportunities HERE.
Federal law requires agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to decision-making.
As part of the NEPA process, federal law requires transit agencies to assess the environmental and transportation effects of their proposed actions throughout project development. The NEPA process includes assessing the impacts of the project on the natural and built environment. It requires the following:
Avoiding environmental resources if reasonably possible
Minimizing impacts if environmental resources cannot be avoided
Mitigating impacts if they are unavoidable
Because this project may be partially funded by the FTA, compliance with NEPA requires an environmental document be prepared that discloses the environmental impacts and benefits of the proposed project. The Categorical Exclusion (CE) Checklist is a streamlined document intended to guide grantees through the NEPA process by assisting with the class of action determination for eligible transit projects. Environmental resources to be evaluated in the worksheet are shown below.
Project Funding for Small Starts
WTS is seeking funding of the project through the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts grant program for BRT projects. Requirements to apply for funding include:
Total project cost is less than $300 million and total Small Starts funding sought is less than $100 million (or 80% of capital cost)
Fixed guideway BRT system
Corridor-based BRT system
The funding is nationally competitive and subject to future Federal Funding availability Greater local funding participation makes applications more competitive for Federal funding. Most Successful Small Starts BRT projects are requesting between 60% and 70% of the project capital cost.