METRO has confirmed it has received what are known as "Letters of No Prejudice" from the FTA that are what amount to an official nod of approval for work to begin on the North and Southeast rail lines. Those letters were received
about a week ago and work has already started on those lines. METRO President and CEO George Greanias says the approval is critical.
"If we intend down the road to be reimbursed for spending local money on this paving work we have to first of all have the federal government approve that work. A letter of no prejudice is just a fancy phrase for the federal government saying we will, when the grant comes through, reimburse you for this work if you spend your local dollars on it now. If we do the work before we get a letter of no prejudice, before we get that okay, then those expenses are not eligible for reimbursement and that money would not get reimbursed by the federal government."
Just last month, the FTA advanced METRO $50 million in grants for light rail projects after the transit agency agreed to re-bid a light rail car project that had earlier violated Buy America guidelines. Greanias says getting started on the light rail lines is good for the neighborhoods affected by construction.
"From the point of view of the people in the neighborhoods whose streets have been disrupted, I'm going to think they're going to think this money is going to be very well spent; however much it is, to get their streets back in good shape, and that's one of the things we're very pleased about. This will enable us to get the orange cones off the streets more quickly and then let us work in the center of the street to put the train tracks and the stations in."
The cost of paving and other work on the North and Southeast lines is expected to cost around $12 million. The FTA would reimburse Metro for about half of that cost.