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Frequently Asked Questions

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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.

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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.

Answer:

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, recipients may use transportation development credits as local match for grants under Section 5324.

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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.

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

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Yes, it is actually recommended to have a back-up User Manager; you can include the second individual on the same delegation letter.

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Yes, in this example, the tiles would serve a functional purpose by protecting the interior walls or floors of the facility from deterioration. Hence, the cost of acquiring, arranging, and installing commercially available tiles that reflect local designs or aesthetics (e.g. a “southwestern” pattern) would be eligible for FTA grant funding.  However, if the transit agency decided to commission an artist to create a work of art on or from such materials, the costs attributable to the artist’s work would not be eligible for reimbursement or included in the total cost of the project for purposes of determining the Federal and local share.

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Yes, a project that prevents disruptions in the case of a disaster, even if an asset is not damaged, could be eligible. For example, a hurricane might submerge the entrance to a bus depot, thereby affecting service but not damaging the facility.
Regarding nuisance events, please be aware that funding in this program is designed to minimize impacts or prevent damage from infrequent extreme weather events and other disasters, which generally means those with a recurrence interval of 10 years or more. A project that protects assets against exposure to typical weather, but has no benefit in a disaster scenario, is not eligible for resilience funding. However, if a project protects against a disaster, but also provides benefits in typical conditions, the application may present these and other ongoing benefits as reduced operations and maintenance costs over the project’s lifespan.

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The Bus and Bus Infrastructure Program is for capital projects only. Studies and planning efforts are not eligible expenses.

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The Low-No Program is for capital projects only. Studies and planning efforts are not eligible expenses. However, a project proposal may include project administration costs directly related to the deployment of eligible vehicles in revenue service.

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Yes.  VW settlement funds can be used for local match.  However, applicants must provide documentation that the funds have been reserved and can be used for the project.

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The timelines provided in the sample Certification Work Plan (CWP) are examples. Each state should provide its own timeline to indicate when the state and FTA can expect the task identified in the CWP to be completed. In providing a timeline, the state should consider its operating environment, resources, and other circumstances that may affect the state’s timeline. FTA will review the timelines for reasonableness and work with states to determine an appropriate timeline if necessary.

Answer:

Workforce development includes activities related to employment or education with a direct linkage to the capital project.  Examples include developing apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and instructional training for public transportation maintenance and operations occupations.  Refer to FTA’s website for additional information.  For the purpose of the Low-No Program, workforce development projects must be directly related to the deployment of low or no emission buses.  In addition, workforce development could also include site visits to agencies with established zero-emission bus fleets.

Answer:

Workforce development includes activities related to employment or education with a direct linkage to the capital project. Examples include developing apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and instructional training for public transportation maintenance and operations occupations. Refer to FTA’s Workforce Development fact sheet for additional information.

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