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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:

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:

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:

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:

Project sponsors wishing to enter the Project Development phase as a New Starts, a Small Starts, or a Core Capacity project should submit a letter to the Associate Administrator for FTA’s Office of Planning and Environment that includes the following information:

  • The name of the study sponsor, any partners involved in the study, and the roles and responsibilities of each
  • Identification of a project manager and other key staff that will perform the Project Development work
  • A brief description and clear map of the corridor being studied including its length and key activity centers
  • The transportation problem in the corridor or a statement of purpose and need
  • Identification of a proposed project if one is known and alternatives to that project if any are being considered
  • Identification of a cost estimate for the project, if available
  • Identification of whether the project would be a New Starts, Small Starts, or Core Capacity project
  • A brief description of current levels of transit service in the corridor today
  • Electronic copies of or weblinks to prior studies done in the corridor, if any
  • The anticipated cost to complete Project Development, not including the cost of any work done prior to officially entering the Project Development phase
  • Identification of the non-CIG capital funding available and committed to conduct the Project Development work
  • Documentation demonstrating commitment of funds for the Project Development work (e.g. Board resolutions, adopted budgets, approved Capital Improvement Programs, approved Transportation Improvement Programs, letters of commitment)
  • If the project is a New Starts or Core Capacity project, an anticipated draft timeline for completing the following activities (which should demonstrate the ability to complete the Project Development work within 2 years as prescribed in FAST):
    • compliance with NEPA and related environmental laws;
    • selection of a locally preferred alternative;
    • adoption of the locally preferred alternative in the fiscally constrained long range transportation plan;
    • completion of the activities required to obtain a project rating under the evaluation criteria outlined in the law
    • completion of the readiness requirements for entry into Engineering; and
    • anticipated receipt of a construction grant agreement from FTA
    • anticipated start of revenue service
  • If the project is a Small Starts project, an anticipated timeline for completing the following activities:
    • compliance with NEPA and related environmental laws;
    • selection of a locally preferred alternative;
    • adoption of the locally preferred alternative in the fiscally constrained long range transportation plan;
    • completion of the activities required to obtain a project rating under the evaluation criteria outlined in the law; and
    • anticipated receipt of a construction grant agreement from FTA
    • anticipated start of revenue service
Answer:

During Project Development, prior to the completion of the environmental review process required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FTA will work with project sponsors to assess the strengths and weaknesses of alternatives still under consideration and provide technical assistance on how to meet the requirements to enter Engineering. Technical assistance may include workshops or other methods focusing on the readiness requirements to enter Engineering.

Formal oversight will generally begin at the completion of NEPA and will be tailored based on the how far the project has advanced in design, the complexity of the project, and the project sponsor’s capability to undertake engineering and construction.

Answer:

By law, FTA evaluates and rates Capital Investment Grants Program New Starts or Core Capacity projects prior to allowing them into the Engineering phase. FTA evaluates and develops ratings for the project justification and local financial commitment criteria.

FTA also reviews the project sponsor’s Project Management Plan and subplans to ensure that the sponsor has the technical capacity and capability to deliverthe project.  Lastly, FTA reviews the project definition, scope, cost and schedule for reasonableness, undertakes and completes a risk assessment. These reviews may be expedited based on factors including the complexity of the project and the project sponsor’s management capacity and capability.

Answer:

FTA plans to conduct a risk assessment of New Starts and Core Capacity projects prior to entry into the Engineeringphase of its Capital Investment Grants program.  FTA may perform updates to the risk assessment and scope, cost, and schedule reviews prior to awarding a construction grant agreement.  

For Small Start projects, scope, cost and schedule reviews and a risk assessment may be conducted during the Project Development phase.  

Answer:

FTA has continued to refine the technical methods and adjust the probability thresholds it uses to undertake the risk assessment based on historic data from previous projects. When determining the reasonableness of a project sponsor’s cost and schedule, FTA reviews the estimates to determine whether they include reasonable assumptions or whether adjustments need to be made. FTA then examines risks related to the project to determine the appropriate level of contingency needed. FTA will use a 65% probability threshold to determine reasonableness of the cost and schedule estimates.  

Answer:

Even if funds have been appropriated or allocated to a New Starts, Small Starts, or Core Capacity project, FTA will not award a construction grant until the following conditions are met and FTA is assured the project is ready:

  • The project’s development and design have progressed to the point where its scope, cost, schedule, benefits, and impacts are considered firm and final;
  • All non-CIG capital funding for the project is committed;
  • All significant third party agreements are completed;
  • The project continues to obtain at least a Medium overall rating under the statutory evaluation criteria; and
  • The Project Management Plan and subplans have been updated to include a management approach at a sufficient level of development to construct and implement the project.
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