A Review Of Capital Improvement Grant Program and the Need For a Uniform Project Selection Process

Large scale public investment initiatives are always subject to tremendous scrutiny and are looked at through the prism of multiple stakeholders and constituents.  It is thus imperative to ensure a level of transparency when it comes to the decision making process associated with project selection, prioritization, and ranking.

This report reviews the programs and policies of the United States Department of Transportation’s project selection and evaluation process to fund new capital-intensive projects in the transportation sector.

The Federal formula programs administered and overseen by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are the basis for this review.

Principal Investigator(s):

Dr. P.S. Sriraj


P.S. Sriraj
Jordan Snow
Jenny Kane
Jane Wilberding
Divyanga Ganesh





Within the federal formula funding programs, the Capital Improvement Grants (CIG) is the primary funding program assigned for transit capital investments like heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, bus and other rapid transit projects. There are over 70 projects across the nation under the CIG program. To provide a better understanding of how the CIG program works, this report traces the origins and history of the evolution of this funding program at the federal level, combined with a review of the program’s administration across different metropolitan areas around the country.


A series of semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted to catalog and understand the project prioritization process at the local level leading to selection of candidate projects for FTA CIG consideration from each of the regions studied.

Expected Results or Products:

It is expected that this report will provide an insight into the complexities associated and embedded in the project prioritization and selection process both at the regional and federal levels.  The report is expected to be used as a guide and a resource for applicants to the CIG Program.

The study includes:

1. A literature review.

2. A historical perspective that identifies the status of all the New Starts projects starting from Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 through 2016.

3. An analysis of New Starts project selection criteria at the federal and state levels.

4. An analysis of New Starts project selection criteria at the local levels.

5. Interviews with representatives from seven Metropolitan Planning Organizations on how transit capital projects are vetted, prioritized and forwarded for inclusion in the Long Range Plan for the region and on to the Federal Government as a regionally supported project.

6. Identification of best practices from the study and recommendation of methods for a better and transparent process.


Download the report


P.S. Sriraj
Urban Transportation Center
University of Illinois at Chicago
412 South Peoria Street, Suite 340
Chicago, IL 60607
Voice: (312) 413-7568
Fax: (312) 413-0006
Email: sriraj@uic.edu


Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative (METSI)




National Center for Transit Research (NCTR), University of South Florida