On Friday, the Federal Transit Administration informed GoTriangle that the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project could move into the next phase of the application process for a federal grant, with one important caveat: “Please note that the President’s Budget for [fiscal year] 2018 proposes no funding for new projects,” reads a bold-typed paragraph from FTA regional administrator Yvette Taylor, “and thus GoTriangle acknowledges that it is undertaking additional work at its own risk which may not receive Capital Investments Grants funding.”

Since the federal grant comprises half of the project’s finances$1.2 billion of the $2.4 billion project cost, not including interestthis is the ballgame.

Another thing worth noting: the DOLRT squeaked by. That is to say, it was scored “medium” on the FTA’s five-point evaluation, the minimum any such project needs to advance. While the DOLRT was rated well on its current capital and operating condition, and OK on its local financing commitments, the FTA is concerned that GoTriangle is overly optimistic about operating costs, and the agency “cannot determine the reasonableness of fare revenue projections because the methodology used by GoTriangle is not in compliance with FTA’s Guidance for Transit Financial Plans.” So there’s that.

GoTriangle officials plan to discuss the project’s rating and suggestions this week.

For now, though, DOLRT now joins five other New Starts projects that are in the engineering phase, according to an FTA annual report. We thought it might be useful to spend a few minutes getting acquainted with the competition.