What is a Federal Project? (Forum is now closed)

As part of an effort to expedite investment in transit infrastructure by excluding some projects or project elements from potentially burdensome federal requirements, the Federal Transit Administration is examining how it defines a “federal project” and the effects of that definition on project implementation. FTA intends to review the thresholds for defining whether a project or project element qualifies as federally funded, which determines whether it is subject to various federal requirements, reviews, and oversight. To gather ideas from stakeholders, FTA is conducting an online dialogue to help identify potential opportunities for streamlining.

Through this online dialogue, the FTA will pose a series of questions and invite state departments of transportation, transit agencies, transit operators, and other stakeholders to submit comments and responses on this topic.

Background:

FTA is responsible for carrying out laws and regulations that determine when a transit project, project phase, or project element is subject to federal requirements. Those requirements range from those enacted under the National Environmental Policy Act to regulations for Metropolitan and Statewide Transportation Planning, Procurement, and Buy America. Federal projects generally include multiple locally funded phases or elements. Application of requirements to federal projects is complex due to a diverse array of sub-categories, such as major capital projects, which cost of $100 million or more, and capital assets, which are facilities or equipment with at least one year of use.

FTA is holding this national online dialogue to provide stakeholders with the opportunity to share how the definition of a federal project may impact the timely and effective implementation of transit projects. FTA is seeking input from state departments of transportation, transit agencies, transit operators and other stakeholders on how these definitions affect project delivery as well as opportunities to improve the process of deciding when a project, project phase, or project element is subject to federal requirements.

How can I participate?

Participation is simple. Present your own idea; vote on someone else’s idea; or simply leave a comment. Our categories, in the form of questions listed below, can guide your response, but any feedback is appreciated.

Once you have logged in (you can choose to remain anonymous), please feel free to:

  • Select “Submit New Idea” to share an idea—once you begin typing, you will be prompted to select a “Category” (optional) from a dropdown list;
  • Browse existing ideas;
  • Comment or vote on someone else’s idea; and
  • Encourage other transportation professionals and members of your community to join the dialogue and share suggestions.

Questions to help guide you:

Should FTA require all Federal requirements to apply to the entire project if any portion or phase of a project receives Federal funding?
Considerations:

  • How does the application of federal requirements to non-federally funded portions or phases of a project affect project delivery or cost? If so, how?
  • Would applying Federal requirements and oversight to only federally funded portion or phases of projects expedite project delivery?

If not, how should FTA define the Federal project?
Considerations:

  • Should FTA look at the phases of a project to determine what is federal or non-federal? If so, how? How would this impact project delivery? [As an example, if a rail line is to be built in three phrases, should FTA define the entire rail line as a federal project, or only the phase receiving federal funds]
  • Should FTA define a more limited federal project based on project activities applied for or used as local match in a grant? If so, how? How would this impact project delivery? (Examples could include: funding construction of guideway with federal funds and permitting the purchase of necessary vehicles to use local funds. Another example would be to permit State of Good Repair funds to be used for force account labor expenses while the materials or equipment used in the activity use local funds. In both cases the vehicles or equipment could not be included as match for the grant.

Is the definition of the Federal project a barrier or incentive to private sector participation?
Considerations:

  • How would changing the definition of a Federal project impact private sector participation?
  • Does the applicability of Federal requirements discourage private sector participation? If so, how? If not, what are the advantages of Federal requirements?

Are there implementation impacts or considerations FTA has not addressed in these questions?

This dialog will remain open from July 16, 2018 through August 17, 2018.

What is a Federal Project?

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  1. Yes in some cases

    Applicability of additional FTA requirements increases project costs for some private sector entities, particularly when they do not regularly deal with those requirements and therefore do not have processes and experienced personnel in place to address them. It also creates the potential for delays that can impose additional costs.

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      The applicability of federal requirements does not discourage private sector involvement and can be used to encourage it. The FTA can work with local transit agencies to identify various ways that the private sector can involve itself in transit expansion and invest. The FTA can also pressure local governments to find local funding solutions in exchange for matching federal grants. NYC for example should be able to pay for Phases 2-4 of the Second Avenue Subway by issuing bonds backed by the real estate revenues of the areas all along the East Side of Manhattan, as these areas will experience…

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