^^Thanks. I have another concern about funding and it was alluded to in the Urban Rail Town Hall Meeting on KVUE.
It had to do with an article Ben Wear wrote (that was mostly behind the paywall) but I found it in it's entirety on another site
Austin, Texas To Seek Fed. Funding for Light Rail Project
Match funding, according to public statements when the City Council set the ballot in early August, was understood to mean 50 percent of the project's overall cost.
So in other words, if the voters agree to kick in $600 million, then the feds have to kick in $600 million.
But based on a review of New Starts grants and projects waiting in line for approval, the federal transit agency has often offered grants well short of a one-for-one match. And the funding picture has been even darker for more expensive projects such as what Austin is contemplating, a federal transportation official told a congressional committee in late 2013.
"For the very largest projects, with total costs of $1 billion or more, the federal share has fallen even further, to an average of about 33 percent per project," testified Peter Rogoff , who was then the head of the Federal Transit Administration and is now the undersecretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation .
Looking only at the 12 New Starts projects listed by the agency as having final deals with the transit administration, the cities or transit agencies building them received on average just over 40 percent of the total project costs.
So Austin , which would be hoping for $600 million or more of federal money to match the local contribution, might find itself several years from now looking to fill a financial void left by an insufficiently generous federal offer. Texas state government has so far mostly shied away from funding urban transit projects.
"We haven't gotten there," Keahey said. "But I would guess that if the funding level remains constrained, we would be encouraged (by the federal agency) to provide more than 50 percent."
If so, that could mean trouble for the project down the road. Business leaders who demanded that matching funds caveat in return for their public support of the proposition have made it very clear that they consider that a legally enforceable covenant with the voters. A shortfall in federal dollars and a resultant call for significantly more local funds could put the project in the courthouse.
"Anything less than 50 percent would not meet that condition," said Brian Cassidy , an Austin transportation lawyer and the Real Estate Council of Austin's vice president for regional infrastructure.
Of course if Prop 1 passes, we won't find out for another few years whether or not we'll get any federal matching funds and if so, how much. In the meantime, we'll be spending $50 - 70 million in environmental studies, detailed engineering and design, and other work just so we can apply
for the federal funds.
To be fair, the article also noted
On the other hand, that requirement could work to Austin's advantage. Federal transit officials, the argument goes, might choose to give Austin the full 50 percent to avoid a legal tangle.
"It's possible that the requirement on the ballot could help the city secure a greater match from the feds, but that was not the intent," Cassidy said. "The intent was to solidify the commitment."
I guess that could be possible, assuming the FTA still exists, and with Congress one never knows.
I would hate to see us spend $50 to $70 million on initial studies and wait 3-4 years only to have the project derailed in the end.