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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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 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.