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Frequently Asked Questions

View frequently asked questions on this topic below. Perform a word search to narrow your content or, if this topic has sub-categories, select based on your interest from the drop-down list.

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Yes. The services paid for must be to develop or carry out SSO programs under MAP-21.

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Yes. States may use such grant funds for in-state or out-of-state travel or training under this program. Meetings and conferences are eligible if the primary purpose is the dissemination of technical information. For more information, see section 27 of Appendix B of 2 C.F.R. Part 225.

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Yes. Costs associated with membership in business, technical and professional organizations directly incurred as a result of one’s SSO job functions are allowable. Note that membership in organizations substantially engaged in lobbying are unallowable. Please see section 28 in Appendix B of 2 C.F.R. Part 225 for more information.

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Yes. States may use SSO Formula Grant Program funds to pay reasonable compensation to employees who are working on the SSO program. All labor must be identified in a staffing plan shared with FTA. You may pay the following types of employees, as identified in the staffing plan:
Full or partial wages for all SSO personnel.
Overtime wages for SSO employees who perform activities such as accident investigation or corrective plan verification.
Partial wages for State employees who support the SSO program.
Refer to section 8 of Appendix B to 2 C.F.R. Part 225 for specific information, and speak to your Regional Office for additional assistance.

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Yes. Vehicles purchases and vehicle operating costs to develop or carry out the SSO program are eligible, but may require prior FTA approval.

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Yes, an SSO agency may use existing federal grant funds for reimbursement of operational and administrative costs incurred during the development of its SSO Program. Since 2013, FTA has provided approximately $112.4 million in SSO formula grant funds to help states develop and implement an SSO Program that meets federal requirements.

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No. These funds may only be used to support MAP-21 compliant State Safety Oversight Program activities.

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Construction or building improvements to develop or carry out the SSO program may be allowed. As with all proposed activities, grant applications will need to fully address how the activity supports the SSO program.

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Yes. A rail transit system does not need to receive federal funds to qualify for this program. Eligible rail transit systems must report to the National Transit Database (NTD) to be included in the apportionment and grant funding may only be used for those systems that report to the NTD or intend to report to the NTD. The applicant or the rail transit system that is currently not reporting to the NTD, e.g., those rail transit systems in the engineering or construction phase of development, should submit a letter of intent that the rail transit system at issue will report to NTD and comply with all applicable Federal requirements.

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Yes. FTA encourages SSOA personnel to take training at the rail transit systems they oversee to improve their knowledge of specific practices and technical systems. SSO grant funds cannot be used to benefit the rail transit agency directly, nor can they be used to provide training or anything else exclusively for the benefit of rail transit agency personnel.

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Yes. Web-based information management systems used to develop or carry out the SSO program are allowable expenses.

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No. Aerial tramways, trolleybuses, and bus rapid transit are excluded.

Answer:

The focus of this grant program is to strengthen each SSO program so it can achieve the robust requirements set forth in MAP-21. Many of the activities performed today are likely part of the enhanced SSO program required under MAP-21; however, the grant application needs to demonstrate how the federal dollars will enhance existing activities, especially those activities that do not currently meet 49 U.S.C. 5329(e), and eliminate activities that may weaken the program or are expressly prohibited by MAP-21.
For example, if a state’s Certification Work Plan (CWP) identifies a gap or deficiency in the statutory requirement that the state has investigative and enforcement authority, the state should identify program activities to be taken to be meet this MAP-21 requirement. In such a case, the state may propose obtaining the necessary investigative and enforcement authority, e.g., enabling legislation, and what that authority may entail, including taking a more active role in leading independent accident investigations. The state should identify these existing or planned activities to work toward the goal set forth in the CWP. FTA will fund these enhanced activities, such as active, independent accident investigations, and the developmental activities required to achieve that level of investigative and enforcement authority. FTA will not fund activities that do not (or will not) meet the statutory requirements of MAP-21.
Other examples include, but are not limited to the activities that:
Mature their three-year reviews to contain additional audits and inspections, tests, measurements and field observations, and perhaps be directed by a sampling plan.
Implement corrective action plan tracking to include additional verification and follow-up activities.
Provide additional training and even peer exchanges.
Support the SSO program personnel in carrying out these enhanced mandates, through equipment and even vehicles purchases.
To ensure grant coverage for all activities performed in the SSO program, FTA recommends that the SSO agency describes its activities in terms of how they support the SSO program in order to meet the explicit mandates specified in 49 U.S.C. 5329(e). So long as an SSO agency is actively working toward MAP-21 implementation and making enhancements to its existing SSO program, FTA intends that those expenses will be covered through the grant program.

Answer:

The HMCE tool is designed to accurately interpolate between two or more events with increasing total damages and increasing recurrence intervals (RIs). So for a scenario where a 100-year event causes more damage than a 200-year event; the HMCE tool would not accurately interpolate between the events and would underestimate the actual project benefits. Therefore, to produce accurate results in the HMCE tool, we recommend the following:
If there are only the two known RI events, then input only the 100-year event as a known RI event and omit the 200-year RI event to avoid an undercounting of project benefits and explain your reasoning in the documentation.
If there are three more events including the two known RI events, then input all the events as unknown RI events and let the tool estimate the RIs and group the results.

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FTA expects that RTAs will honor their funding obligations to the states that rely upon them until the state is certified or has an approved Certfiication Work Plan (CWP) that permits the state to apply for SSO Formula Grant Program funding.
However, states that currently rely on funding from the RTA must identify an independent funding match for the SSO Formula Grant Program and close out their financial relationships with the RTA prior to grant award. FTA recommends that states dependent upon funding from the RTA make final arrangements regarding the termination of this funding so that it ends no later than the date of the state's grant application to FTA's Regional Office. States will not be eligible for pre-award authority until they terminate funding from the RTA.

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Yes. This is precisely the distinction that FTA makes in the Circular. While the minority or low-income population in an area may be small, this does not eliminate the possibility of a disproportionately high and adverse effect of a proposed action on the EJ population. Disproportionately high and adverse effects, not population size, are the bases for environmental justice.

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Yes. At the applicant’s discretion, FEMA’s Schedule of Equipment Rates may be used to calculate the cost of the use FTA ER funding applicant owned equipment in good mechanical condition, complete with all required attachments.

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Yes, it can be assumed that certain assets would experience increased utilization during a 100-year storm event; however, data documentation must be provided to support this assumption indicating 1) the historical precedence for the assumption, 2) the estimated level of increased utilization, and 3) the basis for the estimated increase. In general, assumptions based on predicted behavior will require much more stringent documentation than for historic events.

Answer:

At this time, FTA has not received or approved a CWP.

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