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Frequently Asked Questions

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Answer:

The Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program is a discretionary grant program unlike most others in government. Instead of an annual call for applications and selection of awardees by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the law requires that projects seeking CIG funding complete a series of steps over several years to be eligible for funding. For New Starts and Core Capacity projects, the law requires completion of two phases in advance of receipt of a construction grant agreement – Project Development and Engineering. For Small Starts projects, the law requires completion of one phase in advance of receipt of a construction grant agreement – Project Development.

Answer:

Funds must be obligated within three fiscal years after the fiscal year the funds were made available. For example, if the funds are made available in the fall of 2018, the funds must be obligated by September 30, 2021.

Answer:

The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Final Rule on Private Investment Project Procedures (PIPP) establishes procedures that allow recipients of FTA funds to identify perceived impediments to the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) and private investment in public transportation capital projects either proposed or under construction and in the Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan or the Metropolitan Transportation Plan, and seek a waiver or modification of such impediments.

Answer:

Safety Management System (SMS) is a comprehensive, collaborative approach to managing safety. It brings management and labor together to control risk better, detect and correct safety problems earlier, share and analyze safety data more effectively, and measure safety performance more precisely. 

SMS helps transit agencies apply resources to risk and ensure they have the organizational infrastructure to support decision-making at all levels regarding the assignment of resources.  

Some key parts of SMS include:

  • Defined safety roles and responsibilities;
  • Strong executive safety leadership;
  • Formal safety accountabilities and communication;
  • Effective policies and procedures; and
  • Active employee involvement.

Operators of public transportation systems that are subject to the PTASP rule must develop and implement SMS processes as part of their agency safety plans.

Answer:

For areas under 200,000 in population, the governor designates a State agency responsible for administering the funds and notifies the FTA Regional Office in writing of that designation. Unless there is a change in State agency, FTA will assume the existing designated recipient for the section 5310 program (under SAFETEA-LU) will continue to administer the program for the areas under 200,000.

In areas over 200,000, a designated recipient will need to be identified. FTA will need to receive designated recipient information before a grant can be awarded. These letters should be submitted to the FTA Regional office. Designated recipients in the large urbanized areas may be the section 5307 designated recipients, other direct recipients of 5307 funds, metropolitan planning organizations, or the section 5317 New Freedom Program. Areas may also elect to designate the State DOT as the designated recipient in a large urbanized area. Designations must be made in accordance with the planning process under 49 U.S.C. 5303, 5304, and 5306, by the Governor of a State, responsible local officials, and publicly owned operators of public transportation. Designated Recipients for large urbanized areas will be responsible for receiving and apportioning amounts under the Section 5310 program to urbanized areas of 200,000 or more in population. This includes applying for and managing the grant and overseeing subrecipients in these areas.

Answer:

By law, the following activities must be completed within two years of entering the Project Development phase before a New Starts or Core Capacity project may enter the Engineering phase:

  • Select a locally preferred alternative;
  • Have the locally preferred alternative adopted into the fiscally constrained Long Range Transportation Plan;
  • Complete the environmental review process and receive a Categorical Exclusion, a Finding of No Significant Impact, or a Record of Decision from FTA; and
  • Develop sufficient information for FTA to evaluate and rate the project against the statutory project justification and local financial commitment criteria and receive a Medium or better overall rating.

Additionally, upon completion of the environmental review process, FTA encourages project sponsors to complete as much engineering and design work on the locally preferred alternative during Project Development as needed to feel comfortable with the project cost and scope.

To be considered for entry into the Engineering phase, at a minimum the following will be needed:

  • At least 30 percent of the non-CIG capital funding for the project must be committed
  • At least 30 percent engineering and design work must be completed on the project. At this level FTA expects the project sponsor to provide documents at the following level of detail:
    • Project Management Plan and sub-plans that include processes and procedures to continuously manage the project during Engineering and a staffing plan that identifies key personnel and demonstrates the sponsor’s management capacity and capability;
    • Project definition – key elements are identified and reasonably defined;
    • Cost Estimate – addresses key items within the project's work breakdown structure at an appropriate level, includes a basis for the estimate, and includes required contingency based on the level of design and in accordance with FTA and industry best practices;
    • Schedule – addresses key activities, milestones, and elements within the project's work breakdown structure and incorporates proposed delivery methodology;
    • Third Party Agreements and Right-of-Way – are identified with a plan and schedule for completion;
    • Geotechnical – a preliminary geotechnical report has been completed and provided to FTA where applicable;
    • Project Delivery Method – the delivery method is identified (with related methodologies, activities, and milestones reflected throughout the other required products);
    • Value Engineering Report– the report is substantially complete and a draft report shared with FTA where applicable.  Additional value engineering products may be developed during the Engineering phase;
    • Safety – a preliminary safety hazard analysis and a preliminary threat and vulnerability analysis have been completed and the development of safety and security design criteria has been initiated;
    • Accessibility – the sponsor demonstrates steps that will be taken to ensure compliance with USDOT regulations and standards issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including a preliminary analysis of accessibility features such as accessible routes to, from and within the station sites or boarding locations; detectable warnings; signage and communications; curb ramps; and other accessibility features required under the ADA;
    • Constructability Review Report – a draft report is submitted, where applicable.  The report includes at a minimum the general construction approach, a discussion of site access, and other potential constraints.  A more detailed Constructability Review is to be performed during the Engineering phase that may focus on the bid documents, among other aspects, that would affect procurement of the construction contracts.
Answer:

The key difference between SMS and system safety is how safety is managed under each approach. FTA’s PTASP rule requires transit operators to manage their safety risks through the implementation of SMS. SMS is a top-down, data-driven management system which involves the continuous collection and analysis of information that helps a transit operator become proactive about how it addresses safety risks. In contrast, system safety—a common transit industry approach to safety—is an engineering discipline that incorporates safety into a system during its design and construction. 

System safety assumes that technical compliance with engineered solutions will result in safe operations. The safety plan requirements for rail transit agencies under FTA’s original State Safety Oversight Rule (49 C.F.R. Part 659) implemented system safety through 21 specific requirements for System Safety Program Plans (SSPPs). The major focus of system safety is to integrate risk management into the overall system engineering process rather than addressing hazards as day-to-day operational considerations.

While the system safety approach effectively resolves many hazards, new safety risks may emerge over time with deviations in work practices, performance changes in system equipment or component parts, degraded conditions, aging infrastructure, integration of old and new technologies, and workforce changes. Using methods prescribed in the typical SSPP, it is difficult to identify and assess these new safety risks. By using the principles of SMS, the PTASP promotes the collection and analysis of more information from the frontline, supervisors, automated systems, customers, audits of normal operations, and other activities to help the rail transit agency manage safety risks and regularly monitor the effectiveness of safety risk mitigation. SMS also brings accountability for safety to the top levels of the organization, so the PTASP final rule requires each transit operator to designate an accountable executive who is ultimately responsible for managing safety and allocating resources to improve safety. SMS requires each employee and function within an organization to assume responsibility for safety, not just the safety office. Two other key components of SMS are the safety risk management and safety assurance processes, where data is collected and analyzed, priorities are established, and solutions are introduced then measured against performance, and monitored and evaluated to ensure the solutions are effective.

A rail transit agency may use the safety process and procedures established under its SSPP as a baseline for SMS implementation under its new safety plan. Please refer to FTA’s PTASP website for a crosswalk document that provides guidance on how to transition an SSPP to a safety plan that meets the PTASP rule requirements.

Answer:

FTA cannot discuss specific applications once the debrief period ends. Agencies have 30 days to request a debrief once the selected projects are published in the Federal Register Notice (FRN).  

Answer:

The PIPP is intended to establish a streamlined process that allows project sponsors to seek waivers or modifications of FTA requirements in order to:

  • Accelerate the project development process;
  • Attract private investment;
  • Increase project management flexibility; and
  • Lead to more innovation, improved efficiency, and/or new revenue streams.
Answer:

The eligible subrecipients for “traditional” 5310 projects are the same as those permitted under Section 5310 as authorized under prior legislation. Specifically, eligible subrecipients are: 1) A private nonprofit organization; OR 2) a state or local governmental authority that is approved by a state to coordinate services for seniors and individuals with disabilities or certifies that there are no nonprofit organizations readily available in the area to provide the service.

The intent of the 55 percent requirement and the specific subrecipients eligible to administer capital projects designed to meet the special needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities when public transportation is insufficient, unavailable, or inappropriate, is to preserve the “status quo” of the program as authorized under prior legislation.

However, given the blending of the New Freedom program and eligibility under MAP-21, the eligible subrecipients for all “Other” eligible Section 5310 activities include a state or local governmental authority, a private nonprofit organization, or an operator of public transportation that receives a Section 5310 grant indirectly through a recipient. There is no required certification or designation required for state or local governmental authorities to administer these other types of eligible projects.

Answer:

Upon receipt of a request to enter Project Development as a New Starts, Small Starts or Core Capacity project, FTA will review the materials provided by the project sponsor. If anything is unclear, or documentation from the list above is missing, FTA will follow-up with the project sponsor via email. Upon receipt of complete information from the project sponsor, FTA will send a letter within 45 days indicating the sufficiency of the information for entry into Project Development to both the project sponsor and Congress per the direction in the FAST Act.

A letter from FTA indicating the project may enter Project Development does not imply a funding commitment or endorsement of the project by FTA, and should not be construed as a major milestone. Instead, it merely indicates the project sponsor may begin the initial stage of the process.

Answer:

Yes. In a large urbanized area (area over 200,000), the designated recipient for the Section 5307 program can be the designated recipient for the Section 5310 program in the large urbanized area. A designation letter is still required before a 5310 grant can be awarded. The state is the only eligible designated recipient (and grant applicant) for rural and small urbanized areas (areas under 200,000 in population).

Answer:

SMS improves on the SSPP framework by integrating and harmonizing the various elements of a safety plan so that they work together to manage safety risks throughout all aspects of a transit agency’s operations. SMS provides structure and accountability to supply management with ongoing information about safety risks concerning an agency’s operations. SMS supports management decisions to prioritize actions and allocate resources to resolve identified safety concerns or reduce safety risk to an acceptable level. SMS also includes routine monitoring of service delivery operations in order to evaluate the safety performance of activities and programs.

Answer:

An eligible project is one that will test an innovative project delivery technique that is prohibited by current FTA regulations or FTA policy. A PIPP waiver request cannot be used to waive or modify statutory requirements.  However, if a project sponsor believes an FTA regulation or policy that implements a statutory requirement impedes P3s or private investment, and has a means of compliance with a statutory requirement that is not consistent with the FTA regulation or policy but will remove the perceived impediment to a P3, the project sponsor may propose an alternative method of compliance.

The waiver or modification request must demonstrate that the experimental feature, if approved, will advance the goals of the PIPP. FTA encourages applicants to discuss potential waiver or modification requests with FTA’s private sector liaison or the relevant FTA Regional Office prior to applying.

Answer:

Direct recipients receive funding directly from FTA. Designated recipients have been designated by the state governor or his/her designee to receive and/or sub-allocate.

Answer:

There is not a set timeframe within which projects must complete the process leading up to a construction grant agreement. Some projects naturally take longer than others to develop because of project complexity, size, number of project partners involved, and/or amount of non-CIG capital funding needed for the project.

There are some timeframes that project sponsors should keep in mind:

  • New Starts and Core Capacity projects are required by law to complete the Project Development phase within two years of entering that phase. While the law provides for an extension to the two year timeframe, this is expected to be the rare exception rather than the rule. Thus, FTA advises project sponsors to do “up front” work in advance of seeking entry into Project Development to ensure they can complete the Project Development activities within two years.
  • Within three years of granting New Starts or Core Capacity projects approval to enter the Engineering phase, or within three years of Small Starts projects entering the Project Development phase, FTA expects project sponsors to make sufficient progress on their projects.  This includes obtaining funding commitments for at least half of the non-CIG capital funding needed for the project, and advancing the level of project design.
Answer:

Eligible applicants include designated recipients, states, local governmental authorities, and Indian tribes. Eligible subrecipients may partner with eligible recipients but cannot be the primary applicant.

Answer:

No. Under previous Section 5310 program, States could transfer funds to an apportionment under Section 5307 or 5311(c). This transfer provision is no longer permitted by law.

Answer:

No. Only operators of public transportation systems that are subject to this rule must develop and implement SMS processes.

To reduce the administrative, financial, and regulatory burdens on small public transportation providers, FTA has developed a condensed SMS framework for operators of 100 or fewer vehicles in peak revenue service. Small public transportation providers only need to develop processes for safety performance monitoring and measurement. A process for safety performance and monitoring will enable the agency to monitor its system for compliance with the agency’s procedures for operations and maintenance and identify and address inefficiencies. The process ensures that mitigations are implemented, adhered to, and effective.

Answer:

An applicant may submit a request for a waiver or modification of FTA requirements to the dedicated FTA e-mail address: pipp.fta@dot.gov, with a copy sent to the appropriate FTA Regional Administrator. FTA staff will coordinate the review of the request with the PIPP Steering Committee and the Regional Administrator. The FTA Administrator will notify the grant recipient in writing as to whether the request for modification or waiver is approved or denied.

If an application is approved, FTA will negotiate an Early Development Agreement (EDA) with the project sponsor to establish the parameters of the approved application.

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