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 particular, FTA’s Environmental Procedures should limit applicability where actions taken by an applicant (1) do not require Federal approvals, or (2) do not receive significant Federal funding. We also urge all DOT modal agencies to adopt a uniform definition.

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    • Other implementation impacts or considerations for FTA to address

      FTA should divorce the definition of the federal project that is studied for NEPA purposes from the definition of the project used to determine the applicability of other statutory and regulatory requirements. This would pre-empt issues with segmentation that may arise from the flexibility offered under alternate federal project definitions.

      FTA should consider how changing the definition of a federal project would allow grantees to reconcile conflicts between federal and state/local requirements and/or objectives. Examples include a state or local government wanting to give preference to local vendors for agency projects or the needing to follow FTA regulations.

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      • The current definition of the Federal project can be a barrier to private sector participation

        The current definition of a federal project could be a barrier to private sector participation as it could result in the private sector having to adhere to stringent and burdensome requirements even on those elements that can be completed more efficiently using local dollars. Some significant federal barriers to public-private partnerships for transit projects include statutory provisions, such as Buy America and the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, and related FTA regulations that can ultimately increase cost and slow project delivery.

        The private sector is more likely to participate in transit projects if it can retain the project management structure that…

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        • Yes.

          Yes. Additional requirements often require additional time for compliance and increase the potential for delays.

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          • How FTA should define a federal project

            The FTA should define the federal project simply as “the collection of discrete activities or tasks for which a grantee will seek federal reimbursement (including required match)”. Related activities or tasks that are not funded with federal dollars can be excluded from the federal project (and thus not subject to federal requirements) only if the grantee’s financial accounting can clearly separate the non-federal costs from the federally funded investment. With this definition, the grantee should have discretion to limit the scope of the federal project, subject to FTA’s concurrence.

            This federal project definition would provide maximum flexibility for the grantee…

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            • FTA should not require all Federal requirements to apply to the entire project if any portion or phase of a project receives Federal funding

              The FTA should apply federal requirements only to those parts of a project that receive federal funds and/or required local match. Removing the federal requirements on the local (non-match) portion of an otherwise federally funded project would streamline both the procurement process and overall project administration, and could result in cost and schedule savings.

              There can be a cost to federal compliance. For example, meeting federal procurement requirements can increase project costs because the requirements restrict the grantee’s flexibility in setting specifications, sourcing vendors, and satisfying content requirements.
              In terms of project delivery, a grantee’s ability to fulfill all federal…

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              • Except as required by law, “federal project” should be defined as the portions/phases of a project that receive significant federal funding.

                Applicability of all federal requirements, (e.g., NEPA, Buy America, Historic Preservation) should be tied to a single, uniform definition of “federal project”. Only those projects that receive significant federal funding should be subject to these federal requirements. It should be clarified that granting a federal permit does not make a project a “federal project”.

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                • 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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                  • 1 vote
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                    • Yes

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                      • 1 vote
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                        • 1 vote
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                          • 1 vote
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                            • Federal projects availability to the private sector

                              Meeting Federal requirements is a slight disincentive to private sector participation. For example, the public sector must meet Buy America requirements and the manufacturers must adhere to that as well. The private sector has more flexibility with getting projects implemented because they are not subject to Federal reporting requirements that grantees are required to adhere to.

                              Conversely, there are Federal requirements that are beneficial, such as DBE requirements, fair wage payment to subcontractors (Davis-Bacon Act), and internal technical requirements to ensure a project is executed in an efficient manner.

                              Direct private sector participation may impact government/non-profit participation; changing the ability…

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                              • Apply federal requirements to the only the phase receiving federal funding

                                Federal requirements in many instances are more stringent than local requirements. This results in additional approvals, reporting requirements and documentation. This delays the process at one than more phase of the projects. Applying Federal requirements just to the portion or phase of the project receiving Federal assistance would provide relief to smaller agencies who may be challenged with meeting all Federal requirements, enforcing requirements outside of their agency or immediate control, or who have limited staff.

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                                • .

                                  Funding from FTA is extremely critical to get projects form planning to construction.
                                  The advantage of working with FTA oversight is to keep expenditure and progress of the work monitored regularly, and keep the project TEAM on target.
                                  In case of multiple funding sources applied to a project, it will be much time savings and effort, if the FTA guidelines, and oversight only applies to FTA funded items.
                                  We found that early involvement of the project team and FTA oversight engagement is very helpful.
                                  A training from FTA oversight to a project team at the begging of a project is…

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                                  • Responses to Questions

                                    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?

                                    Applying Federal requirements to the non-Federally funded portions of the project can increase cost and delay delivery. Many times local supplied funds have fewer or different requirements on them and trying to add or overlay federal requirements complicates project delivery.
                                    Would applying Federal requirements and oversight to only federally funded portion or phases of projects expedite project delivery?
                                    Yes, it would expedite delivery.

                                    Should FTA look at the phases of a project to determine what is…

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                                      1 comment  ·  Admin →
                                    • No Smoking or dawdling on any given job

                                      We don't know who is to blame but sometimes either construction workers or those who are supposed to be doing the safety inspections are supposed to be working. Now as most workers that works indoors were caught dawdling, or spending time outside having a cigarette while on the clock, we would be fired. Construction workers know that they have a schedule to keep so that the project can get completed on time. And for like the Delmar trolley, now since the track is laid, we are waiting for those responsible for the safety checks to do their jobs and to…

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                                      • Protection of federal oversight

                                        The protection of federal oversight is worth keeping in some ways and it does add value above time and cost. Yes there are consequences that should be considered, are there foundational elements (literal and figurative) that are funded via separate phases that become less adequate for future work due to a lack of oversight? Does that make the future federally funded elements that are based on those foundations subject to a reduced life-cycle or accelerate their failure, are the material and design tie-ins compatible (i.e. substructure and superstructure, is there corrosion acceleration on different materials among phases based on different…

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                                        • CIG-Related Recommendations

                                          The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area and the Designated Recipient for FTA Formula Funds for the large urbanized areas in our planning area. In refining how FTA defines or classifies a Federal Project, any potential changes should consider:

                                          - Allowing project sponsors to more easily combine state-of-good-repair-type (SGR-type) project components into larger capacity expansion projects to allow Section 5337-SGR and 5309-CIG funds to both be used on the project. Many expansion projects also serve to improve state of good repair. For example, new railcars or upgraded traction power systems…

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