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 and reflect the reality that not all projects are the same. The definition is broad enough to incorporate the examples offered by FTA:
-A grantee could separate a project by phase and only define the federal project as the activities within the phase receiving federal funds.
-A grantee could locally fund and procure vehicles to meet local specification requirements (for example, specifying brand components for fleet computability or proven performance in previous procurements) to run along a new guideway that is constructed with federal funds.
-A grantee could use FTA State of Good Repair-funds for labor while using non-federal sources for materials and equipment. This example of locally funding materials and separating procurement from the labor allows the grantee to have more flexibility in establishing its materiel inventory to be either federally or locally funded and meet the logistics needs of a larger inventory.
Additionally, this definition would allow for separation of federal and non-federal elements at the task level. For example, this proposed definition would allow for the use of locally funded and procured consultants for non-federally funded tasks related to a federal project. A grantee would be able to procure a consultant with non-federal funds to work on several locally funded projects as well as task(s) related to a federal project. In addition, a grantee would be able to acquire property with local funds as part of a larger project that includes both federally and non-federally funded activities without the delay often associated with federal property acquisition requirements.
However, it is reasonable for FTA to expect assurances that non-federally funded activities that are integral to achieving the benefits of federally funded activities are completed as required for the FTA funded portion of the investment to achieve its full operational benefit. In future opportunities to comment on definition of federal project, FTA could solicit suggestions on what this assurance would entail, as it should be a far more limited level of oversight than the federal portion of the project. Preliminary suggestions include signed certifications and periodic (but minimal) progress reporting concurrent with the required reporting on the federal investment.